Cancer Protection in Your Pantry
True nutrition is about eating your way to excellent health. It’s about achieving and maintaining vibrant health and forestalling disease. It’s a simple philosophy that’s been enshrined in Western thought since Hippocrates uttered the famous words: “Let food by thy medicine, let medicine by thy food,” some 2,400 years ago. At times we’ve lost sight of this simple wisdom. But it remains as meaningful today as it did all those centuries ago, when Hippocrates took steps to codify the practice of medicine and the subtle art of healing. Living in the fertile Mediterranean region, it’s perhaps no coincidence that the diet on offer where Hippocrates lived and worked is among the most healthful on Earth.
As luck would have it, the diet of ancient Greece resembled the Mediterranean diet as we know it today. Olives and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) are the primary source of fats in the diet. Although it’s not vegetarian, it features relatively little red meat. Fish is on the menu, but so too are nuts, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and fresh herbs.
Modern science has proven what Hippocrates alluded to: the Mediterranean diet is capable of bestowing enviable health on anyone who adheres to it. A recent study published in the influential Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine is a case in point. Investigators report that adhering to a Mediterranean-style diet supplemented with olive oil is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. The results have been gleaned from the ambitious PREDIMED study conducted in Europe on more than 4,000 older women, between 2003 and 2009.
Women eating the olive oil-supplemented diet were dramatically less likely to be diagnosed with malignant breast cancer during a five-year follow-up period than similar women who did not follow the diet. The odds of being diagnosed were 68% lower for women on the 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," the authors conclude.
Estefanía Toledo, Jordi Salas-Salvadó, Carolina Donat-Vargas, Pilar Buil-Cosiales, Ramón Estruch, Emilio Ros, Dolores Corella, Montserrat Fitó, Frank B. Hu, Fernando Arós, Enrique Gómez-Gracia, Dora Romaguera, Manuel Ortega-Calvo, Lluís Serra-Majem, Xavier Pintó, Helmut Schröder, Josep Basora, José Vicente Sorlí, Mònica Bulló, Merce Serra-Mir, Miguel A. Martínez-González. Mediterranean Diet and Invasive Breast Cancer Risk Among Women at High Cardiovascular Risk in the PREDIMED Trial. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015; 1 DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.4838