Mediterranean diet: Healthy eating for cancer prevention

Mediterranean diet: Healthy eating for cancer prevention

People are now focused on being healthy and fit. Especially after the pandemic that jolted every single person deep down. It provides us with a lesson about how important our health is for us. The best way to provide your body with a whole required nutrition is being physically active and adopting good eating habits (including fruits and vegetables).

There are a variety of diets and meal plans available in today's date. People try these variety of diets (DASH diet, Ketogenic diet, Vegan diet, Atkins diet and Mediterranean diet) based on nutrition they want for their body.

Out of these diets, the Mediterranean diet has gained immense recognition. U.S. News & World Report ranked this diet number one for the 4th time. The reason behind this is the health benefits this diet provides to the human body.

According to the American Heart Association,

“MD plays a significant role in lowering the risk of developing certain cardiovascular diseases and co-morbid conditions (diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol”

Other than this, such diets also reduce your risk of other diseases. One of such is cancer.

The global cancer load is notable and growing. It is the 1st or 2nd top cause of premature death in 134 of 183 countries globally. It is estimated that one in six deaths is due to cancer. Undoubtedly, the chemotherapeutic and other treatments of cancer are a better place to cure the cancer.

However, there are miles to cover in this context. However, having healthy eating you can substantially reduce the risk of getting cancer.

Mediterranean diet (MD) is also an excellent option to reduce cancer risk and keep overall health salubrious. Let's explore about this diet and its impact on health and cancer prevention:

  1. What is Mediterranean diet?
  2. Health benefits of Mediterranean diet
  3. Mediterranean diet in cancer prevention
  4. Impact of Mediterranean diet on various types of cancer
  5. Conclusion

What is Mediterranean diet?

This diet originated from the Mediterranean regions, hence the name of the diet remains this. About 22 countries bordering Mediterranean sea followed a traditional dietary pattern, involving diverse non-starchy vegetables, legumes, cereals (minimally processed whole-grain), seeds and nuts.



The Dietary features of the Traditional Mediterranean Diet are:

  • Fresh fruits (as daily dessert) and sweets (majorly contain nuts)
  • Many fresh vegetables, whole grains (minimally processed) and legumes as staple food
  • Honey on occasions.
  • Extra virgin oil/virgin oil (Cold-pressed)
  • Seeds and nuts as major fat source
  • Fish (in moderation)
  • Low amounts of dairy products (yogurt and local cheese)
  • Low amounts of processed and red meat
  • Wine consumption (low to moderate levels)

Olive oil is the major part of the diet, consumed on a daily basis. It acts as a base for dishes. The fresh fruits consumed at the end of the meal or as snacks in the afternoon or mid-morning. This is the reason the diet exhibits significant health benefits.

Health benefits of Mediterranean diet

This diet helps in weight loss, improves cardiovascular health, enhances immunity, reduces diabetes risk and improves brain health.

Research suggested, this diet keep body healthy and fit via certain ways:

  1. Protects the body against free radicals, oxidative stress, platelet aggregation and inflammation.
  2. Exhibits lipid-lowering effect
  3. Synthesis of gut microbiota
  4. Modify the growth factors and hormones that aids in cancer prevention
  5. Hindering of nutrient sensing pathways via amino acid regulation

Mediterranean diet in cancer prevention

These nutrients and molecules present in this diet possess significant positive impact upon cancer prevention and management. The diet is high in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which significantly helps in cancer cell degradation.

Various studies also showed that a high compliance to this diet is related with the reduced risk of malignancies. Let's explore these in little deep:

  • Being rich in olive oil, vegetables, wine and olive oil, this diet is high in polyphenols. The polyphenols possess significant actions against cancer cells. These components hinders the proliferation of cancer cell and its metastasis.
  • This diet is also enriched with vitamin E, vitamin C, flavonoids, folate and carotenoids. These all together are known to exhibit good levels of antioxidants. This helps in preventing DNA damage done by the cancerous cells.
  • As we all known how much important omega-3 fatty acids are for overall health. This diet contains variety of nuts (pumpkin seeds, almonds and walnuts) and fish that help to enrich the body with omega-3. These healthy fats reduces the inflammation and interfere with the development of cancer cell proliferation, angiogenesis and metastasis.
  • Also, low intake of meat, high-temperature meat cooking and reduced animal intake lead to reduced noxious impacts.

On whole Mediterranean diet lowers the cancer risk via mechanisms:

  • Reducing and modulating the effects of lipids
  • Exhibiting anti-aggregating, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions
  • Modulating caner-proliferating mediators
  • Modulating amino acid content
  • Stimulating hormones and other pathways leads to cancer
  • Modify gut microbiota, hence improved treatment compliance

Impact of Mediterranean diet on various types of cancer

This diet known to show positive impact against various types of cancers:

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is one of the main cancers widespread in women. Various analyses underlined the positive association between breast cancer incidence and MD adherence.

This diet can exhibit a protective action against breast cancer cells. Thanks to the fibers, vitamins, carotenoids, flavonoids and antioxidants, Mediterranean diet reduces estrogen levels, enhances sex-hormones, neutralizes free radicals and protects DNA damage.

Colorectal Cancer

This diet shows protective actions against colorectal/colon cancer. An adherence to the MD diet lowered the risk of colorectal cancer in men and women by 20 and 45 percent, respectively.

Prostate Cancer

It has been seen that calcium, dairy, animal derived oils and fats are known to be a major risk factor of prostate cancer. On the other hand, soy, legumes, fibers, vegetables, tomatoes and green tea are known to decrease prostate cancer risk.

It can be clearly seen that Mediterranean diet has a great positive impact in lowering the prostate cancer incidences.

Gastric Cancer

This diet contains high content of fibers, antioxidants and is associated with improved gut microbiota. All these are known to lower the risk of gastric cancer.

Not only this, this diet also acts upon the Helicobacter pylori and its associated damages in the stomach. H.pylori infection is significantly associated with the higher incidence of gastric cancer. Therefore, by lowering their levels in the body, this diet also shows another protective effect.

Other than this, MD is also known to show actions against head-neck, bladder, pancreatic and lung cancer cell lines.


Mediterranean diet contributes to reducing cancer incidences. This is due to the dietary patterns it possesses ample levels of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-proliferative, Antiangiogenesis and anti-metastasis actions.

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