Review published in Advances in Nutrition presents evidence that dried fruit consumption may be more effective than fresh fruit in preventing certain cancers.

Cancer is the second leading cause of mortality, with an estimated 9.6 million cancer deaths worldwide in 2018.  Evidence does suggest, however, that more than 40% of cancer deaths could be prevented through lifestyle changes, including changes in diet.  In particular, studies have found that a higher consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of cancer.

Not all fruits and vegetables, however, are alike: certain types of fruits and vegetables may have very different effects on cancer risk.  In addition, how fruits and vegetables are processed may lead to different effects on cancer risk.  For example, a scientific review published in Advances in Nutrition, “Dried Fruit Intake and Cancer: A Systematic Review of Observational Studies,” presents evidence culled from research studies that suggests that the consumption of dried fruit may be a critical component in lowering your risk of developing certain cancers.

“data presented in this review indicate that increasing dried fruit consumption to 3-5 servings per week may have health beneficial effects related to risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the pancreas, prostate, stomach, bladder, and colon.” 

Authors of the study

No such effect, however, was found for lung or breast cancers.  Surprisingly, the authors noted that the associations between the consumption of dried fruit and a lower cancer risk were generally stronger than associations between fresh fruit consumption and a lower cancer risk.  This enhanced protective effect of dried fruit may be due to the changes in chemical composition of fruit during dehydration.

The authors did point out that “evidence concerning the impact of dried fruit consumption on risk of cancer in populations is sparse.”  Following an extensive search of the scientific literature, they found just 16 studies that reported on associations between dried fruit consumption and cancer.  In contrast, hundreds of studies have examined the relation between cancer risk and consumption of raw or total fruits and vegetables.  In addition, “differences in study designs, including study populations, preferences of dried fruit consumed across different geographical regions and cultures, and a broad variety of outcomes, made comparison of the results across the selected studies difficult.”

In summary, while there is some evidence to suggest that dried fruit consumption may be a key component in preventing cancer, more research is needed.  According to the authors, “expanding the knowledge base would guide clinical practice, public health interventions targeting fruit and vegetable consumption for cancer reduction (particularly in populations with limited access to fresh produce), as well as recommendations for reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices.”

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