Mediterranean diet is rich in
vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and fish. It limits
consumption of unhealthy
fats. The diet is said to improve blood vessel function, combat inflammation,
reduce risk for heart disease and repair oxygen-related cell damage.
on using olive oil and the leeway to have red wine is what makes this diet
slightly different from other healthy diets.
nutshell, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes on:
• plenty of exercise,
• intake of plant-based foods (such
as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts),
• consumption of unsaturated fats in
the form of olive oil and canola oil over saturated fats such as butter
• limiting red meat to no more than
a few times a month,
• eating fish and poultry at least
twice a week, and
• drinking red wine in moderation
It is said
that the residents of Greece eat very little red meat and consume on an average
nine servings a day of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. It's a heart
healthy approach that prevents the formation of oxidized low-density
lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the "bad" cholesterol that's more
likely to build up deposits in the arteries.
There are numerous studies on the effect of
Mediterranean diet on heart health, but only a few researches have been done on
the Mediterranean diet and cancer risk, especially, association of this diet
with overall mortality or risk of specific cancers, and still less on overall cancer risk.
research report published in the British Journal of Cancer aimed to study the association
between adherence to Mediterranean dietary pattern and overall cancer risk. A
lower overall cancer risk was found among individuals with greater adherence to
One of the authors,
Dr Dimitrios Trichopoulos, professor of cancer prevention and epidemiology at Harvard University,
said: "Our results show just how important diet is in cancer risk". According to him, the
Mediterranean diet is characterised by 'high intake of (i) vegetables, (ii)
legumes, (iii) fruits and nuts, (iv) minimally processed cereals, (v)
moderately high intake of fish, (vi) high intake of monounsaturated lipids
coupled with low intake of saturated fat, (vii) low-to-moderate intake of
dairies, (viii) low intake of meat products, and (ix) regular but moderate
intake of alcohol'.
When considering overall cancer risk and the nine
food groups considered in the Mediterranean diet score, following were the
• An apparent
protective effect of fruits and nuts, vegetables, cereals, and of a high ratio
of unsaturated to saturated lipids was observed.
• Increased meat
consumption was associated with increased risk of cancer.
• In comparison with
moderate drinkers, the Hazard Ratio (HR) for all cancers was 1.03 for non- or
light drinkers and 1.12 for heavy drinkers.
• When stratifying
by tobacco smoking, the apparent protection conveyed by adherence to the
Mediterranean dietary pattern was somewhat stronger among current smokers than
among never smokers.
The EPIC study concluded that 'higher adherence to
a Mediterranean dietary pattern is associated with a reduction in the risk of
cancer in Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean countries, with a somewhat
stronger protective effect among smokers and against tobacco-related cancers'.
Promoting the Mediterranean diet might therefore contribute to cancer
prevention, in addition to cardiovascular disease prevention, they added.
An earlier study published in the American Journal
of Clinical Nutrition evaluated the association of the traditional
Mediterranean diet with breast cancer in a Mediterranean country.
findings revealed that eating more of one food group alone does not
significantly change a person's risk of cancer. Adjusting the overall dietary
habits towards the traditional Mediterranean pattern has an important effect.
The research states that adopting
just two aspects of the Mediterranean diet could cut the risk of
developing cancer by 12 percent. It further elaborates - "consuming more good
fats, like those found in olive oil, than bad fats like those found in chips,
biscuits and cakes, have the greatest effect reducing cancer risk by nine
percent. Also making any two changes to the diet, such as eating more peas,
beans and lentils and less meat could cut cancer risk by 12 percent."
It is said that women who closely
follow the diet tend to have lower levels of estrogen, which initiates the
growth of the majority of breast cancers, than women who don't follow this
diet. Other studies suggest that the fats found in the Mediterranean diet -
both olive oil and the omega-3 fats in oily fish - may slow the growth of
cancer cells. The diet is also typically rich in antioxidants, which protect
body cells from damage and oxidation that can eventually lead to disease,
reduce the cancer risk by eating a healthy, balanced diet that is high in
fiber, fruit and vegetables, and low in red and processed meat and saturated
• E Couto
et al "Mediterranean dietary pattern and cancer risk in the EPIC cohort"
British Journal of Cancer (2011) 104, 1493-1499.
• Nortan A. "Mediterranean diet tied to lower breast
cancer risk" 2010