Mediterranean Diet Reduces Cardiovascular Mortality and Cancer

healthy living Nov 11, 2022
Best Diet Heart Health

The Mediterranean Diet: How It Can Help Reduce Cardiovascular Mortality and Cancer

Patients and attendees at conferences ask me every day, "What is the Healthiest Diet?"

As a cardiologist that has spent two decades publishing, researching, and lecturing on weight loss, nutrition, and heart disease, I have learned a lot and have been blessed to be able to share it with the world. 

 

What Is the Healthiest Diet?

The Mediterranean diet, which is a diet which consists of a high intake of fiber, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, lean meats, fish, and olive oil, has been associated with numerous health benefits. Most notably it has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Let's explore the evidence behind the Mediterranean diet's ability to reduce cardiovascular mortality first.

If you want the best easy to follow heart healthy Mediterranean Cookbook, grab my calorie based, heart healthy, weight loss cookbook now!

 

Science Behind the Mediterranean Diet

Multiple studies over the past few decades have shown the cardiovascular benefits of the Mediterranean diet. 

According to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Medicine, following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a significant reduction in cardiovascular mortality. The review included data from 16 studies involving over 1.5 million participants, and found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet had a 9% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality compared to those who did not follow the diet. Not too shabby! (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4339461/)

Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of major cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes. The study included over 7,000 participants and found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower risk of major cardiovascular events compared to those who followed a low-fat diet. This is fantastic! (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa1800389)

A Mediterranean diet is also beneficial for those with existing cardiovascular disease. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that a Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk of recurrent cardiovascular events in patients with coronary heart disease. The study included over 5,000 participants and found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet had a 20% lower risk of recurrent cardiovascular events compared to those who did not follow the diet. This is an incredible reduction for a simple diet intervention. (https://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2015/03/04/16/36/mediterranean-diet-cuts-heart-disease-risk-by-nearly-half)

So, what makes the Mediterranean diet so effective at reducing cardiovascular mortality? One reason may be its focus on whole, minimally processed foods, which are rich in nutrients and antioxidants. The Mediterranean diet is also high in healthy fats, such as fish, olive oil, and nuts, which have been shown to have heart-protective effects. It's also delicious and nutritious! 

Taking "healthy fat" supplements like fish oil and omega 3 supplements has not shown to improve cardiovascular mortality, and actually worsens cardiovascular outcomes. In fact, fish oil supplementation has been shown to increase the incidence of irregular heart rhythms, namely atrial fibrillation. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34612056/)

Su we know the Mediterranean diet can reduce cardiovascular mortality. But can it also reduce cancer?

 

The Mediterranean Diet: How It May Help Reduce the Risk of Cancer

The Mediterranean diet has also been associated with a reduction in many types of cancer. Let's take a look at the evidence behind the Mediterranean diet's potential to reduce the risk of cancer.

According to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal, following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, and gastric cancer. The review included data from 23 studies involving over 1.8 million participants, and found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet had a 9% lower risk of developing cancer compared to those who did not follow the diet. Yes, you read that correctly, 1.8 million participants. It was a very well done study! (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770822/)

Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a Mediterranean diet was associated with a significant reduction of breast cancer. The study included over 4,000 women and found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower risk of breast cancer compared to those who did not follow the diet. That's 30% and it's quite a reduction! (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2434738)

The Mediterranean diet is also beneficial for those undergoing cancer treatment. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that a Mediterranean diet was associated with improved quality of life and survival in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. The study included over 1,500 patients and found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet had a significantly higher survival rate compared to those who did not follow the diet. It was a very impressive study that was very well done. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770822/https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33396551/)

Another very large (over 2 million) meta analysis showed significant reductions in colorectal, breast, gastric, liver, head and neck, prostate cancers. The more the participants adhered to the diet, the lower the cancer risk. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28954418/)

So, what makes the Mediterranean diet so effective at reducing the risk of cancer? One reason may be its high intake of fiber, fruits, vegetables, and which are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that help protect against cancer. The Mediterranean diet is also low in red and processed meats, which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Processed meats increase inflammation which may be another mechanism by which cancer cells spread and replicate. 

 

Mediterranean Diet: Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease

If you want a diet that is heart healthy and reduces the risk of multiple types of cancer, then this is the diet for you!

If you want the best easy to follow heart healthy Mediterranean Cookbook, grab my calorie based, heart healthy, weight loss cookbook now!

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Disclaimer:

This blog is for general informational, educational, and entertainment purposes only and does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice, and no doctor/patient relationship is formed. The use of information on this blog or materials linked from this blog is at the user's own risk. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard, or delay in obtaining, medical advice for any medical condition they may have, and should seek the assistance of their health care professionals for any such conditions. Dr. Alo and his subsidiaries can not be held responsible for any harm, deleterious effects, up to an including death form the information contained on this website and blog.