Canola oil in mum’s diet may reduce baby’s risk of breast cancer
The first baby preselected as breast cancer-gene free was born in the UK this month and made the headlines. The doctors used preimplanatation genetic diagnostics (PGD) to screen IVF-produced embryos for those which are free from mutations of the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. The parents opted for the procedure to free the next generation from the curse of genetically transmitted breast cancer that plagued women in the father’s family. Many people welcomed this new development while others disapproved. It is therefore good to know that there may be other ways of preventing cancer in our offspring without resorting to PGD. And it has something to do with maternal diet during pregnancy.
A recent study presented at the American Association of Cancer Research’s Annual Conference reported that mothers with high omega 6 fats in their diet may put their children at higher risk for breast cancer. However, by shifting to other types of fats, this risk can be significantly reduced.
The study was conducted in the lab by feeding a group of pregnant mice with a diet containing corn oil while another group was given a diet containing canola oil. When these mice gave birth, their offspring were monitored for breast cancer incidence. The results of the test showed that both groups of offspring have similar body weights. However, those offspring whose mothers were fed with corn oil have a higher number of glands with tumors and higher total tumor weight. The researchers believe that that the mother’s diet during pregnancy and feeding period has an influence on the baby’s gene development and susceptibility to cancer.
So why did the researchers choose to compare corn and canola oils in their study? Corn oil contains 50% omega 6 polyunsaturated fats and only 0.5% omega 3 fats. Canola oil, the other hand, contains only 20% omega 6 and 10 percent omega 3 fats. Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats have been reported to increase rates of breast cancer while omega 3 was found to lower cancer risk. In addition, the amount of omega 6 in corn oil mimics the typical American diet.
The use of polyunsaturated fats like corn and soy bean oils became popular in the 1950s and 1960s when doctors began recommending it to reduce cardiovascular diseases. However, the incidence of hormonally-influenced cancers like breast, colon and prostate cancers also started to go up soon after the consumers shifted to these oil diets.
The good thing is that canola, also known as rape seed oil with its omega 6 and omega 3 balanced content is readily available in supermarkets.