Olive oil produces greater weight loss in breast cancer survivors compared to a more traditional low-fat diet, a study has found.
The finding could be of great importance to women with breast cancer, since excess weight at the time of diagnosis, or even moderate weight gain during cancer treatment, is associated with an increased risk of cancer recurrence, particularly in post-menopausal women.
In the pilot study, women followed two 1,500-calorie diets - a conventional low-fat diet recommended by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and a plant-based olive oil diet similar to the Mediterranean diet. After eight weeks on each diet, participants selected one diet to follow for an additional six months of continued weight loss or weight management.
According to the findings, published in the June issue of the Journal of Women's Health, 80 percent of women who started with the plant-based olive oil diet lost more than 5 percent of their baseline weight, compared to 31 percent who started with the NCI diet. But researchers were most surprised to find that after trying both diets, most women chose to stick with the less conventional, higher fat olive oil diet, saying they found the food more appetizing, accessible and affordable.
Mary Flynn, PhD, RD, LDN, the study's lead author and a research dietitian at The Miriam Hospital, says many breast cancer patients don't realize there is a link between weight and cancer recurrence.
"That's why it was important for us to compare these two diets and determine which one the women not only enjoyed following, but also produced the best weight loss, because that's the diet they're more likely to stick with," says Flynn. "In this case, it was a diet enriched with extra virgin olive oil, which is a source of healthy fats, and includes foods associated with improving one's health, such as vegetables, beans and other plant products."