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Mediterranean Diet and Stomach Cancers



We've seen that the Mediterranean Diet can help reduce your risk of death from all causes, from heart disease to stroke to cancers. We also know that eating more fruits and vegetables appears to reduce your risk of oral cancers (Bite, 05/17/06) as well as helping to prevent Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (Bite, 02/20/07). Reducing your intake of red meat may help you avoid certain types of breast cancer (Bite 11/15/06). Research on specific types of cancer in relation to the overall Mediterranean diet is a little sparse, however.

Fortunately, a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2010;91(2):381-90) looks at the relationship between following a Mediterranean style diet and the fourth most common cancer worldwide: stomach cancer (gastric adenocarcinoma). Stomach cancer is also the second leading cause of death from cancer, after lung cancer.

The researchers in this study made use of information gathered in a long-term, large-scale study known as the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). It includes over 485,000 men and women between the ages of 35 and 70 living in 10 European countries. At the start of the study each participant's diet was scored on the 9 components of the Mediterranean Diet, with a final grouped scoring of low, medium or high adherence.

After almost 9 years of follow-up the researchers were able to compare the diets of those who developed stomach cancer with those who did not. Those who scored the highest on Mediterranean Diet adherence were 33% less likely to develop stomach cancer than those who scored the lowest. Further, each additional point in the 18-point scale the researchers used represented an additional 7% reduction in risk.

What this means for you

Once again, the take-home message here is that small changes in your diet can have a big impact on your long-term health. Interestingly, the researchers note that when they compared the effects of the 9 components of the Mediterranean Diet on an individual basis, it seemed that the component with the greatest effect on one's risk of stomach cancer was the higher intake of whole grains (read: fiber).

First posted: October 27, 2010