Mediterranean Diet Protects against Cancer?
The general dietary habits of some Mediterranean populations are thought to protect against heart disease and certain cancers. Low intake of saturated and polyunsaturated fats and high intake of essential fatty acids, fiber, natural antioxidants and B vitamins may explain this protection.
In this study, 605 patients diagnosed with coronary heart disease were placed into an experimental group instructed to follow a "Mediterranean-type" diet or a control group told to follow the dietary recommendations of the American Heart Association (AHA).
* fresh fruit and vegetables
* bread and cereals
* legumes (beans and peas)
* more fish, less red meat
* canola/olive oils instead of butter and cream
* 30% of total energy as fat; 10% saturated, 10% monounsatu-rated, 10% polyunsaturated
* less than 300mg daily cholesterol intake
Results of the five-year study revealed that the experimental group had a reduced incidence of cancer, particularly of the throat and of the urinary and digestive tracts, compared with the control group.
Seventeen patients in the control group died from cancer during the study period, compared to only seven in the group that adopted the Mediterranean dietary pattern. Health care professionals should note these findings when suggesting nutritional guidelines for their patients.
De Lorgeril M, Salen P, et al. Mediterranean dietary pattern in a randomized trial. Prolonged survival and possible reduced cancer rate. Archives of Internal Medicine
, 1998;158, pp1181-87.