Could a Mediterranean diet reduce your risk of breast cancer?

Sol is a volunteer intern in World Cancer Research Fund's press office. She is currently studying International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

New research funded by World Cancer Research Fund has shown that following a Mediterranean diet can decrease the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer by 40 per cent.

However, if your idea of a Mediterranean diet is based on a holiday to Spain spent drinking sangria and eating jamon, you might have to think again!

What exactly is a Mediterranean diet?

The diet in this study did NOT include alcohol.

On the menu were high levels of plant-based proteins, such as lentils and beans, as well as wholegrains, fish and healthy fats like olive oil and avocado.

Courgette and pepper ratatouille with white fish

The diet also featured a low intake of red meat, sweets and refined grains like white bread.

What did the research find?

The research studied 62,573 different women over a period of 20 years. Their diets were closely followed and any breast cancer cases within the group were recorded.

Rustic Italian pasta and bean soup

The researchers found that the women who adhered more closely to the Mediterranean diet had a 40 per cent reduced risk of breast cancer.

What should we take from this?

The increasing levels of cancer diagnosis across the world show that being aware of the link between cancer prevention and nutrition is very important.

This study shows the significance of focusing on a whole diet when studying cancer risk, instead of focusing only on specific food items – after all, this is how we eat in our everyday lives.

Spaghetti with salmon and spinach

Researching nutrition and cancer this way teaches us so much more about how food affects our health.

Don’t want to stick to only Mediterranean-style dishes?

If a Mediterranean-only diet doesn’t appeal, you can still try reducing your intake of alcohol, red meat and unhealthy fats, and increasing the number of plant-based foods and wholegrains in your diet.

Your body will certainly thank you for it in the long term!

There are lots of delicious and healthy recipes on our website, including Mediterranean-influenced dishes such as chicken cacciatore with tagliatelle, ratatouille and a mouthwatering chickpea salad.

Sol Azcune | 06 March 2017

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