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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Randy

The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study (HNHS), started in 1976, is considered to be a key long-term population study on women’s health.

The studies have identified important health risk factors including: persistent organic pollutants consumed through contaminated food may be linked to diabetes; eating meat or eggs before pregnancy may raise gestational diabetes risk; taking in less than a single alcoholic drink per day may still raise the risk of breast cancer; daily consumption of the amount of cholesterol found in one egg may shorten a woman’s lifespan as much as limited smoking; meat intake may be an infertility risk factor; there’s a positive association between teen milk intake, especially skim milk, and teen acne; and nut consumption does not lead to expected weight gain.

Study findings have also suggested specific steps women can take to improve their health including: nut and grapefruit consumption may help prevent breast cancer; getting enough Vitamin E may reduce asthma risk; eating berries, along with cruciferous and green leafy vegetables may reduce cognitive decline; sufficient magnesium intake may help prevent heart attacks; getting enough plant-based omega-3’s may reduce depression; and, eating more plant protein and reducing refined carbohydrate intake may reduce heart disease risk.


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