Women following a Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil are 68% less likely to develop breast cancer compared to those on other diets, new research shows.
People following this diet tend to use oils instead of butter and substitute meat with fish, as well as consuming a large amount of fruit and vegetables.
A team of scientists examined the breast cancer risk of 4,282 middle-aged and older women who either follow a Mediterranean diet high in olive oil or a low-fat diet.
They detected that the participants who consumed a Mediterranean diet high in virgin olive oil were nearly 70% less likely to develop malignant breast cancer compared to those eating a low-fat diet.
During the six-year study, approximately 35 participants were newly diagnosed with malignant breast cancer.
Senior author Miguel A Martínez-González said: “The trial results suggest a beneficial effect of a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil in the primary prevention of breast cancer.
“Nevertheless, these results need confirmation by long-term studies with a higher number of incident cases.”
New study confirms research on olive oil and breast cancer
Mitchell H Katz, deputy editor of the JAMA Internal Medicine, where the study is available, noted: “Of course, no study is perfect.
“This one has a small number of outcomes, and all participants were white, post-menopausal and at high risk for cardiovascular disease.”
He added: “Still, consumption of a Mediterranean diet, which is based on plant foods, fish and extra virgin olive oil, is known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and is safe. It may also prevent breast cancer.”
The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, confirms earlier research that showed that oleocanthal, a natural phenolic compound found in extra virgin olive oil, reduced the recurrence of one type of breast cancer in mice and limited the growth of other types of recurrent tumors.
Using oleocanthal from Greek olive oil, a controlled study in Professor Khalid El Sayed’s laboratory at the University of Louisiana at Monroe demonstrated for the first time that oleocanthal can prevent relapse in one of the four major types of breast cancer, HER2-dependent breast cancer, as well as decreasing the size of other types of breast cancer tumors that appear after treatment.
Another study in El Sayed’s lab showed that a therapy that combines oleocanthal with a conventional breast cancer medication might work better than the drug alone.
These findings suggest exciting directions for future research into novel alternatives for cancer treatment.