Published on November 11, 2023, 12:39 am
A new review has summarized the existing research on the Mediterranean, keto, and plant-based diets and their impact on cancer risk and progression. Cancer continues to be a major health concern, with its advanced stages proving difficult to treat. While scientific advancements have been made in understanding and treating cancer, there is still much work to be done.
Lifestyle factors play a significant role in determining an individual’s risk of developing cancer. The review highlights the influence of diet on cancer incidence and progression. For example, processed meat is classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization, while red meat is considered probably carcinogenic. Poor dietary choices can also lead to conditions such as type 2 diabetes, which increases the risk of certain cancers.
The review focused on three popular diets: the Mediterranean diet (MD), ketogenic diets, and plant-based diets. Of the 23 papers included in the review, 15 examined the Mediterranean diet, making it the most extensively studied among the three diets. Additionally, four studies explored keto diets, while another four focused on plant-based diets.
Research involving breast cancer patients found that higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with smaller tumor size, absence of nodular metastases, and recurrence-free survival. Another study involving over 10,000 women observed a significantly lower incidence of breast cancer among those who adhered closely to a Mediterranean diet compared to those who followed a Western diet high in whole-fat dairy, processed meals, fast foods, and red meat but low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish.
In terms of prostate cancer treatment using ketogenic diets initiated during breast cancer patients’ care plans have revealed promising outcomes. Tumor sizes decreased significantly in patients following keto diets compared to those in a control group who did not adhere to this diet plan.
The impact of plant-based diets on breast cancer incidence has also been investigated. Studies have shown that adherence to a healthy plant-based diet significantly reduced the risk of developing breast cancer. However, it is essential to note that unhealthy plant-based diets were associated with a higher risk.
The Mediterranean diet has also been shown to have a protective effect against gastric and colorectal cancer. Individuals who closely adhered to a well-balanced and strict Mediterranean diet saw a 68% reduction in their risk of developing gastric cancer.
While the keto diet did not appear to affect the risk of gastric cancer directly, an interventional study demonstrated that when added to chemotherapy, it improved survival rates among patients.
Plant-based diets have shown positive effects on colorectal cancer survivors’ mortality rates during remission. However, the quality of the plant-based diet was found to play a crucial role in achieving these benefits.
The review primarily focuses on MD in relation to various cancers, except for one hepatocellular carcinoma study that analyzed plant-based diets. This study found that adhering to a plant-based diet reduced the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma compared to other dietary patterns. Substituting carbohydrates and refined grains with plant fats further decreased the risk.
In addition to these specific studies, research has also indicated that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, olive oil, and fish is associated with a lower risk of lung cancer among individuals who are current or recent smokers. Conversely, high red meat consumption was linked to an increased risk of lung cancer.
Other studies have explored the impact of dietary choices on bladder cancer and thyroid cancer. High adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk of developing bladder cancer, while low adherence was associated with more thyroid nodules and higher malignancy.
Understanding the relationship between diet and cancer risks is crucial for making informed decisions about long-term health. While more research is needed in certain areas, the evidence suggests that adopting healthy dietary patterns such as the Mediterranean diet or plant-based diets can reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. It is important for individuals to make informed choices about their diets, keeping in mind the potential impact on cancer prevention and progression.