Women following a Mediterranean diet with extra olive oil are 68% less likely to develop breast cancer compared to those on other diets, new research shows.

The Mediterranean diet originates from Europe and predominantly includes natural ingredients from Italy, Greece and Spain and limits processed foods.

People following this diet tend to use oils instead of butter and substitute meat with fish, as well as consuming a large amount of fruit and vegetables.

A team of scientists examined the breast cancer risk of 4,282 middle-aged and older women who either follow a Mediterranean diet high in olive oil or a low-fat diet.

They detected that the participants who consume a Mediterranean diet high in virgin olive oil were nearly 70% less likely to develop malignant breast cancer compared to those eating a low-fat diet.

During the six-year study, approximately 35 of the participants were newly diagnosed with malignant breast cancer.

Senior author Miguel A Martínez-González said: “The results of the trial suggest a beneficial effect of a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil in the primary prevention of breast cancer.

“Nevertheless, these results need confirmation by long-term studies with a higher number of incident cases.”

Mitchell H Katz, deputy editor of the JAMA Internal Medicine, where the study is available, noted: “Of course, no study is perfect.

“This one has a small number of outcomes, and all participants were white, post-menopausal and at high risk for cardiovascular disease.”

He added: “Still, consumption of a Mediterranean diet, which is based on plant foods, fish and extra virgin olive oil, is known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and is safe. It may also prevent breast cancer.”

The study has been published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

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