Should you follow a Mediterranean Diet after cancer?
The Mediterranean diet is often hailed as a ‘healthy diet’ but what about in cancer? Read on to find out if there are any benefits to the ‘Mediterranean diet and lifestyle’ for people affected by cancer.
Understanding the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is inspired by traditional eating patterns of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It emphasizes whole, minimally processed foods rich in fruits and vegetables, olive oil, nuts, wholegrain, beans, pulses and plant-based food. Smaller amounts of red and processed meats as well as some diary, oily fish, and chicken.
The research studies into people following a Mediterranean diet has shown it is linked to improved cardiovascular health, lower risk of type 2 diabetes and reduced risk of some cancers. Let’s look at that a bit closer.
The Link Between Mediterranean Diet and Cancer
Lots of studies have investigated the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and cancer prevention and recovery. As the diet's focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains this provides a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are known to support the body's immune system and help combat cancer cells.
Olive oil, a feature of the Mediterranean diet, contains monounsaturated fats and polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Fish, is another core component of the Mediterranean diet, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers and may help manage inflammation.
One study investigated patients with in advanced skin cancer on immunotherapy treatment. Patients who were advised to follow a Mediterranean diet had improved response to treatment. This is promising but it’s worth noting that this was a small study; only 91 people so further research needed particularly in other cancer groups as we can’t say that this could improve treatment response in other cancers 1.
Is it all about food?
The Mediterranean diet also has another aspect- lifestyle particularly physical activity, getting adequate rest and socialising with friend and family. Interesting there has been some new research looking at not only diet but the lifestyle aspects of the Mediterranean diet too. A new UK prospective study looked at people following a Mediterranean diet and risk of cancer. Those following more aspects- diet and exercise had a 30% lower risk of cancer. But it’s important to remember this study only shows interesting associations or links between cancer and nutrition not causality 2.
Is there any benefit following the Mediterranean diet post-Cancer?
After cancer treatment you need good supply of nutrients to rebuild tissues, support the immune system and regain strength. The Mediterranean diet has the potential to provide a diet:
Rich in nutrients from fruits and vegetables, pulses and nuts
Support your digestive health by providing fibre
May help regulate your weight by providing healthy fats and healthy lifestyle which encouraging move movement.
So, should you follow a ‘Mediterranean diet’?
The types of foods and healthy lifestyle that is promoted in the Mediterranean diet has a lot of positives as we have seen above. However you can take the principles of the diet such as having more fruit and veg, more pulses rather than red meat etc and adapt it to your own likes and traditional cuisines without you changing to a Mediterranean diet’ per se.
Have a look at my simple swap ideas.
If you would like help planning your diet, my programmes all include a dietary analysis so you can see exactly if you are getting the right amount of nutrients and we can develop a plan together to create a healthy diet!