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Mediterranean Lifestyle Lowers Risk of Cancer

Adopting a Mediterranean lifestyle can help lower your risk of cancer and may prevent an early death!

In a study recently published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers found that adherence to the Mediterranean lifestyle by middle-aged individuals living in the United Kingdom reduced all-cause and cancer-related mortality by 29% and 28%, respectively.

“This study adds to the literature that beyond diet, other components of the Mediterranean Lifestyle can play a combined and stronger role in the risk of mortality, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, not only in Mediterranean countries but in non-Mediterranean,” Dr. Mercedes Sotos-Prieto, Ph.D., lead study author, Nutrition Epidemiologist at the University Autonomous of Madrid, Spain, and Adjunct Professor at Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health, told Healthline.

The Mediterranean diet is defined by high consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats (like olive oil), and lean protein, predominantly fish. Eating habits of the region include limiting salt and sugar consumption, reduced exposure to processed foods, and moderate consumption of red wine. Social factors and “conviviality,” as the study terms it, include socializing with friends, especially at meals, collective sports, limited sedentary activities, and taking naps.

The results of the study found that those with the highest level of adherence to the Mediterranean lifestyle had the highest protective benefits compared to those with the lowest levels. Those with the highest levels of adherence had reduced all-cause and cancer-related mortality by 29% and 28%.

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN, a dietician and president of KAK Consulting, said that the results of the study weren’t surprising.

“The Mediterranean diet has been consistently found to reduce the incidence of many chronic conditions. Related to cancer, it shows an example of how a dietary pattern high in nutrient-dense foods can help with overall health and cancer prevention. For example, many of the foods found on the Mediterranean diet are high in polyphenols and flavonoids, which have been found in other studies to play a protective role against certain chronic conditions, including cancer,” she said.

Cancer Prevention

Besides improvements in overall health, the researchers also found that adopting the Mediterranean lifestyle could also lower the risk of cancer. The researchers concluded, “Our study makes an important addition to the literature by showing that adherence to the Mediterranean diet based on locally available products was associated with lower all-cause and cancer mortality and, furthermore, that the overall Mediterranean way of life was also strongly protective of such outcomes.”

Speaking on behalf of the American Cancer Society, Dr. Caroline Um, Ph.D., RD, Principal Scientist, Epidemiology Research at the ACS, said, “The findings of this study support those of other studies that suggest there are health benefits associated with a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, and adds to the limited evidence that benefits may also extend to non-Mediterranean populations.”

The Mediterranean lifestyle is consistently shown to be one of the healthiest diets in the world. As the researcher said in this study, it is possible to adapt your diet and exercise to more closely resemble the Mediterranean lifestyle, even if you don’t actually live in the region, and you’ll likely reap some of the health benefits, such as a lowered risk of cancer.

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