Diet research

Here at Prevent Breast Cancer, we’re extremely proud to be the pioneers of the only clinically proven intermittent diet, The 2-Day Diet. Our research dietitian, Dr Michelle Harvie, and director of scientific research, Professor Tony Howell, launched the eating plan to offer people a simple way to lose weight – and keep it off – and, in turn, reduce their risk of breast cancer and other diseases.

The subject of such diets – known as intermittent energy restriction diets or, more commonly, as 5:2 diets – is one that never seems to die and the number of adaptations is always growing. However, Dr Harvie is now calling for further research into the benefits of intermittent dieting, particularly to those looking to shift a few extra pounds rather than shed several stone.

It’s fair to say that there’s a lot of research into how overweight people can benefit from a 5:2 diet, but we need more detailed research into the optimum length of time to follow such a diet and what steps people can take to ensure they’re able to keep the weight off and, therefore, reduce their risk of breast cancer and other diseases.

Last year, we conducted a study that showed how following a low-calorie, low-carb diet for two days per week can lead to cancer-preventing changes in the breast tissue. The project, Breast Risk Reduction Intermittent Diet Evaluation (BRRIDE), saw overweight pre-menopausal women at high risk of breast cancer follow The 2-Day Diet for one month.

Our researchers took breast biopsies on 20 women before and after the four-week trial. On average, women lost around half a stone in weight, with 55 per cent of those taking part experiencing changes in their breast cells. Such changes involve the production of proteins that are known to make the cells more stable and less likely to become damaged. Therefore, the risk of developing breast cancer is reduced.

Educating people on the impact of healthy eating and exercise is a crucial step in the prevention of breast cancer, but to do this we need a wider knowledge of how nutrition can affect the breast tissue and we can advise patients appropriately.

Find out more about our diet and lifestyle research on our website.