Eating like the Greeks do — a diet rich in plant foods, healthy fats and seafood — has shown to have significant health benefits, but now a new study has revealed they may be able to add “lowers breast cancer risk” to their list.
In the recent study out of Spain, researchers found that women who consumed a rather large dose of extra-virgin olive oil as part of a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of developing breast cancer over five years than women eating a low fat diet.
The study involved 4,282 post-menopausal women, aged 60-80 who were at a high risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart disease. They were divided into three groups, with two of them being asked to eat a Mediterranean diet. The first group was supplemented with 1 litre of extra-virgin olive oil per week for themselves and their families. The second group was given 30 grams of mixed nuts (15 grams walnuts, 7.5 grams hazelnuts, 7.5 grams almonds), and the third group was identified as the control group, advised to reduce their dietary intake of fat rather than eating from the Mediterranean diet list.
After five years, the women eating a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil showed a significant 68 per cent lower risk of malignant breast cancer than those in the control group. The women who were noshing on additional nuts revealed a non-significant 41 per cent risk reduction compared with the women in the control group.
The researchers found that for each additional 5 per cent of calories coming from olive oil, women might reduce their chances of developing breast cancer by about 28 per cent — impressive!
However, there were a few limitations in the study. Firstly, the study was originally meant to examine the impact of this diet on the heart, so there was no evidence as to whether the women had undergone any breast cancer screening. Secondly, the number of breast cancers were quite low (only 35 cases), so it might not be enough to draw any definitive conclusions. The researchers also reported that the study was unable to determine whether the positive effect was mainly due to the olive oil consumption or in conjunction with the Mediterranean diet.
“The results of the PREDIMED trial suggest a beneficial effect of a MeDiet [Mediterranean diet] supplemented with EVOO in the primary prevention of breast cancer. Preventive strategies represent the most sensible approach against cancer. The intervention paradigm implemented in the PREDIMED trial provides a useful scenario for breast cancer prevention because it is conducted in primary health care centers and also offers beneficial effects on a wide variety of health outcomes. Nevertheless, these results need confirmation by long-term studies with a higher number of incident cases,” said the authors.
Either way, the Mediterranean has shown to have significant health benefits, so it’s still a top contender in our eyes.