It seems like our minds are increasingly on breast cancer these days. Research shows the incidence of breast cancer has increased worldwide by over 20 percent since 2008. Almost all of us have been touched by this disease, either having experienced it ourselves or walking that journey with a friend or family member.
Now a newly published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Internal Medicine) offers new hope for preventing of breast cancer by adopting a healthy, plant-based diet.
The longitudinal study investigated more than 4000 women aged 60-80 who were randomly assigned to follow a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or were simply advised to reduce their fat intake.
After 5 years, the researchers found 35 confirmed cases of breast cancer within the entire study group, but the rates between the three diet groups were very different. Women following the Mediterranean diet with olive oil had the lowest incidence of breast cancer at almost 2/3 lower than control group. Women following the Mediterranean diet with mixed nuts also had a significantly lower incidence of breast cancer than the control group, although slightly higher than the group supplementing with olive oil. The researchers concluded their results suggest a significant benefit to following a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil in preventing breast cancer.
The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional habits and recipes of people living close to the Mediterranean Sea, and is largely plant-based with meals centered around fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Seafood and poultry are also emphasized, along with healthy fats like olive oil, and food is flavored with herbs and spices rather than salt. Red meat and sweets are limited but not cut out entirely.
In addition to this new finding about breast cancer, past research has shown the Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and other cancers and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Although the study authors cautioned that larger and longer-term studies should be done to confirm the findings, this is a significant finding, offering hope to women that they can take control of their lives and risk of breast cancer.
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