Healthy Living

A Mediterranean Diet & Olive Oil Reduces Breast Cancer Risk By 68 Percent

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According to a study published online by JAMA Internal Medicine, eating a Mediterranean diet that is supplemented with olive oil was associated with a moderately lower risk of breast cancer in women from Spain.

Breast cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers and the leading cause of death in women. There has been extensive research into diet as a modifiable risk factor in the development of breast cancer.

The Mediterranean diet is known for its abundant use of fish, plant foods, and especially olive oil. Researchers analyzed the effects of of two interventions with the Mediterranean diet. One was supplemented with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and the other with nuts. They compared these two diets with women who were told to follow a low fat diet.

The women who were in the EVOO intervention group were given one liter of EVOO per week for them and their families. The other intervention group were supplied with 30 grams of mixed nuts per day ( 15 grams of walnuts, 7.5 grams of hazelnuts, and 7.5 grams of almonds).

The Benefits Of A Mediterranean Diet

The study was conducted within the framework of the large PREDIMED (Prevention with a Mediterranean Diet) trial, that was originally designed to test the effects of the Mediterranean diet on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

From 2003 to 2009, 4,282 women between the ages of 60 and 80 and all with high risks of cardiovascular disease were recruited. Women were randomly assigned the Mediterranean diet supplemented with EVOO (1,476 women), the Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts (1,285 women), or the control diet advice to reduce their dietary fat intake (1,391 women).

The women were an average age of 67.7 and had an average body mass index of 30.4. Most of the women had undergone menopause before the age of 55 and only 3 percent of them used hormone therapy.

During a median follow up of about five years, the researchers found 35 confirmed new cases of malignant breast cancer in the participants.

The researchers noted that the women who were on the Mediterranean diet that was supplemented with extra virgin olive oil had a 68 percent relatively lower risk of breast cancer than the women that were allocated to the control diet. The women on the Mediterranean diet supplemented nuts did not show a significant risk decrease to the control diet women.

Although breast cancer prevention was not the primary end point of the trial, it does still suggest the beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil in the primary prevention of breast cancer.

The Mediterranean Diet

So what does the Mediterranean diet consist of exactly? Here are the primary foods you should consume when observing a Mediterranean diet.

Fish and Poultry

Two servings of fish or shellfish a week is recommended for the Mediterranean diet. Fish and poultry should be substituted for red meat, which should be limited to 12 to 16 ounces a month. Recommended food items are chicken, turkey, oysters, shrimp, salmon, squid, mackerel, mussels, tuna, lobster, tilapia, salmon and flounder.

These foods contain healthy fats called Omega-3s that can help prevent different types of cancers in men and women.

Healthy Fats

Butter and margarine are unhealthy and not consumed when observing a Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is the primary fat used in cooking and seasoning foods. Extra virgin olive oil contains unsaturated fats which work to lower harmful cholesterol levels.

Vegetables and Fruits

Vegetables are consumed in large quantities on the Mediteranean diet. Artichokes, eggplant, celery, broccoli, onions, peas, peppers, sweet potatoes, lettuce, mushrooms, celery and tomatoes are common and contain antioxidants and other compounds that fight cancer.

Fruits should be eaten for dessert in place of sweets. Apples, cherries, dates, peaches, grapefruit, melons and strawberries are commonly consumed and they to offer cancer fighting properties. Seven to ten servings of fruit and vegetables should be consumed daily.


Grains that you use on the diet should contain little to no saturated and trans fats. Refined carbs are rarely used and most foods come from whole grains. Try using steel cut oats, brown rice, couscous, buckwheat, or quinoa.


Water is the best beverage to consume, but a glass of red wine a day is permitted. Avoid soft drinks and sugar laden juices.


Nuts are another staple of the Mediterranean diet. They also contain unsaturated fast, as well as Omega-3 fatty acids, a double whammy of health. Eat these in moderation however, as they are high in calories.

The Mediterranean diet is naturally healthy, with focuses on low calorie consumption and eating a lot of the good stuff. Even if you can’t be in the Mediterranean, you can still live like you are: happy and healthy.


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