A study looking at healthy eating and exercise in women having chemotherapy for breast cancer (B-AHEAD 2)

Cancer type:

Breast cancer





This study tested a diet and exercise programme for women to help them to manage their weight during chemotherapy.

Researchers developed this programme using the results of the first B-AHEAD study. 

The study was open to women having chemotherapy for breast cancer. They joined the study between March 2013 and October 2014. 

The team presented a poster of the results at a conference in 2017.

More about this trial

Many women diagnosed with breast cancer are above their ideal weight. And many women expect to lose weight during chemotherapy. But most women put weight on. 

This is because people tend to be less active after a diagnosis of breast cancer and can also eat and drink more. Also chemotherapy can slightly reduce the body’s metabolic rate meaning that it doesn’t need as much energy.

There is evidence that you can reduce the chances of cancer coming back by:

  • preventing weight gain
  • being a healthy weight
  • taking regular exercise

Keeping a healthy weight may also improve your wellbeing after diagnosis.

The B-AHEAD study looked at diet and exercise after surgery for breast cancer. It showed that those having chemotherapy had more problems with weight control. 

In this study researchers compared 2 different diets. One you diet for 2 days a week instead of everyday. For the other 5 days you follow a more relaxed Mediterranean diet (2 day diet). 

The other half had a calorie controlled Mediterranean diet everyday (daily diet). 

Both groups did regular exercise. 

The team compared the 2 diets to find which was best to:

  • prevent weight gain during chemotherapy
  • help women who are overweight to lose weight 

They also wanted to know how possible both diets were to do for these women. 

Summary of results

The team found that both diets were possible for this group of women. 

About this study
This was a randomised study. Every woman was put into 1 of 2 groups. Neither they nor their doctor chose which group they were in. 

169 women joined the study. During their chemotherapy:

  • 84 women followed the 2 day diet 
  • 85 women followed the daily diet 

They also received:

  • individual advice
  • telephone support
  • information posted out to them

Before starting chemotherapy and 3 weeks after finishing:

  • they were weighed
  • the team worked out how much body fat they had 
  • they had a special DEXA scan Open a glossary item that showed how much fat and fat free mass was in their body  

The team looked at the difference between the measurements taken before and after chemotherapy. And worked out the average loss of:

  • weight
  • body fat
  • free fat mass  

The average weight loss was:

  • 1.89 kg for women in the 2 day diet group
  • 0.54 kg for women in the daily diet group

The average loss of body fat was:

  • 2.27 kg for women in the 2 day diet group
  • 1.19 kg for women in the daily diet group

There was no difference between the 2 groups in the amount of free fat mass loss.  

The study team concluded that for women having chemotherapy both diets were:

  • possible to do
  • safe to do

And that there was a greater loss of weight and body fat for women who used the 2 day diet. 

Where this information comes from    
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) but may not have been published in a medical journal.  The figures we quote above were provided by the research team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Michelle Harvie

Supported by

Breast Cancer Research Trust
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust(MFT)

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Harriet wanted to try new treatments

Picture of Harriet

“I was keen to go on a clinical trial. I wanted to try new cancer treatments and hopefully help future generations.”

Last reviewed:

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