There is more potentially good news about eating a Mediterranean diet boosted with a sizable supplement of extra virgin olive oil.
A small study of Spanish women showed the diet “was associated with a relatively lower risk of breast cancer,” according to a news release.
The study followed two groups of women averaging in their late 60s - 4,282 in total - who were given two variations of a Mediterranean diet, a diet that is heavy on fruits, nuts and vegetables with small portions of fish, lean meat, cheese and wine. One group had their diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil, while another were given nuts instead.
Extra virgin olive oil is believed to be healthy because it is manufactured without chemicals or heat which could change its beneficial properties.
"Several biological mechanisms could explain the putative anticarcinogenic properties of extra virgin olive oil," the researchers wrote.
Starting in 2003, the olive oil group received a liter per week for them and their families, and the nut group received 15 grams of walnuts, 7.5 grams of almonds and another 7.4 grams of hazelnuts.
In 2009, those who had the olive oil showed a 68 percent lower risk of malignant breast cancer compared to a control group, while those eating nuts had similar rates of cancer as the control group.
“The Mediterranean dietary pattern has attracted considerable attention because, historically, breast cancer rates have been lower in Mediterranean countries than in Northern or Central European countries or the United States," the researchers wrote.
The study, which was led by researchers at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, did have a couple shortcomings.
The women studied were originally enrolled to study the effects of the Mediterranean diet on heart disease. Also,researchers say they still can’t tell if the olive oil was the reason or if it was adherence to the diet.
Researchers say the results of the study “suggest a beneficial effect of a [Mediterranean diet] supplemented with [olive oil] in the primary prevention of breast cancer. Preventive strategies represent the most sensible approach against cancer.”
Breast cancer is the second most deadly cancer in the U.S., with 232,000 diagnoses this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Roughly 40,000 will die of the disease.