National Nutrition Month: The Mediterranean Diet and Cancer

So this week, to round up our monthly theme celebrating National Nutrition Month, I invited a special guest to join me on Facebook live - Dr Orlena Kerek of drorlena.com. Orlena is a doctor from the UK who moved out to live in sunnier climes in Spain, and is now running a successful health and life coaching business. As a strong proponent of the Mediterranean Diet, I thought, “Who better to have as a guest to speak with authority on this topic?!”.

You can watch the live on Facebook (and have a laugh at our technical inabilities!). Seriously, it must have taken us at least 5 minutes to figure out how to get both of us on screen together! On that note of technical hitches, the sound quality from my phone is very echoey, but you don’t need to hear me speak - it’s what Orlena shares that’s most valuable. But because of this, we’ve already made a plan to re-record it and I’ll upload it here and on Facebook as soon as it’s ready.

However, if you’re not able to watch the video now, and you want to know the details of the Mediterranean Diet in cancer prevention, you can read the “Cliff’s notes” below…

  • The first point Orlena made was that the Mediterranean diet is very personal and needs to fit with what works for individual physiology, likes and dislikes. She sees it more as a framework you can apply to your eating habits to make positive, healthy changes.
  • So, what exactly is the Mediterranean diet? Well, it includes eating a range of fresh fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates from whole grains (e.g. spelt and bulgar wheat, rather than refined carbs like flour and sugar), different sources of protein - particularly oily fish, and healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and seeds. In short, it includes lots of variety - the way Mediterranean people eat food.
  • There are numerous reported health benefits from following the Mediterranean diet, including reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, especially stroke, cancer and diabetes.
  • A large study called the PrediMed study was conducted in 2011 by the Spanish government, and although there is some controversy around the potential bias of this study because Spain is the largest producer of olive oil and there were issues with the randomization of the participants, their results showed that those who followed the Mediterranean diet lost weight, particularly around their stomach (the visceral fat) and were less likely to get cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
  • In terms of cancer prevention, the Mediterranean diet can reduce a post-menopausal woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, and it can also reduce colorectal cancer risk too.
  • Olive oil itself has lots of antioxidant properties, but is it anti-cancer? Well, a systematic review of the literature showed that people who consumed the highest amounts of olive oil had lower odds of developing any type of cancer, regardless of whether they came from Mediterranean or non-Mediterranean countries.
  • To find out more, visit Dr Orlena’s website where she talks in depth about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and she even has a free guide you can download!  You can either read the blog or listen to the podcast episode on her website, or you can find the podcast on iTunes here.

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