A joint study by the University of Navarra and the Centre for Biomedical Investigation of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBERObn) shows that eating what is known as the “Mediterranean diet” can reduce the risks of developing breast cancer in women by two-thirds.
The study, published in the magazine JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday, was carried out on 4,282 women. Professor of preventive medicine and public health, Miguel Angel Martinez-Gonzalez, hailed it as “the first study that offers results on a scientific basis after following a sample of 4,282 women over 4.8 years”.
Other studies, he explained, had been purely observational and rather based on a strict collection of data.
The “Mediterranean diet” is based on the use of olive oil in cooking and consuming a high proportion of fruit and vegetables, pulses, and oily fish, and containing a low proportion of saturated fats.
The study showed that a diet where 15 per cent of the calories came from olive oil explained the high levels of protection against breast cancer.
“This happened even though a comparative group also followed a diet which is considered to be healthy, which makes our findings even more significant than if they had been compared with a Western, but not Mediterranean, diet,” highlighted Martinez-Gonzalez.
During the course of the study, there were only 36 cases diagnosed of breast cancer among the women who took part in the investigation.
“Given that breast cancer is the illness that takes the most years off women’s lives in Spain, and that one in 13 develop the tumour in their lifetimes, these results represent a great step forward in questions of prevention,” said Estefania Toledo, investigator at the faculty of medicine at the University of Navarra.