USA TODAY US Edition
Olive oil, Mediterranean diet may cut breast cancer risk
A new study suggests there may be a way for women to dramatically reduce their risk of breast cancer, without cutting calories, losing weight or taking medication.
Women who were randomly assigned to follow a Mediterranean diet — one with lots of fruits, vegetables, olive oil and fish but not much red meat, dairy or sugar — had a 68% lower risk of breast cancer after 4.8 years,
compared with women told to follow a low-fat diet, according to the study, published Monday in
JAMA Internal Medicine.
The study’s results may be too good to be true, some experts said.
The new results come from the same Spanish study that found in 2013 that a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke or death from heart disease by 30%.
Independent experts say the breast cancer results are far less solid. That’s partly because only 35 of 4,200 women in the study de- veloped breast cancer, said Barnett Kramer, director of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute, who wasn’t involved with the new study. The whopping drop in breast cancer risk came from just a handful of breast cancers.
Breast surgeon Susan Love noted that the original study — with a total of about 7,450 people — was designed to study heart disease, not breast cancer.
Extra virgin olive oil seemed to be a key part of the diet. Researchers gave half of those following a Mediterranean diet a liter of olive oil, free of charge, every week and gave the others an ounce of mixed nuts. Both olive oil and nuts contain healthy fats believed to reduce heart disease. Only women whose diet was supplemented with olive oil had a lower risk of breast cancer.
Women weren’t asked to eat less or exercise more. There was no significant difference in weight loss or gain among the three groups, said study co-author Miguel Martinez- Gonzalez at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain.