A HIGHER fat Mediterranean diet reduces breast cancer risk by 62%

Mediterranean Diet

Do you want to avoid breast cancer? Then eat a higher-fat diet.

A new study published yesterday looks at the PREDIMED trial where participants either got a low-fat diet (ouch!) or a higher-fat Mediterranean diet (with plenty of extra nuts or olive oil). After five years the risk of breast cancer was much higher in the group told to eat a low-fat diet. The higher-fat Mediterranean diet apparently protected against cancer.


LATimes: Diet heavy on olive oil cuts breast cancer risk by 62%, study says

The Graph

Here’s the graph over the number of people who got breast cancer in the three groups. “Control” is the low-fat diet, the other two are Mediterranean diets with extra nuts or extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO).



A low-fat diet may promote cancer. Very likely the cause could be that low-fat diets are higher in carbs, increasing blood glucose and the hormone insulin, which drives cell proliferation.

This of course completely contradicts the old and failed idea that low-fat diets are supposed to be healthy. This means a lot of cognitive dissonance for people who still believe in low fat. It’s possible to see that in the discussions of a possible mechanism with magic cancer-protecting substances in olive oil.

It’s just like the French Paradox. They traditionally ate loads of fat and were very heart healthy. So people said it must be due to magic heart-protecting substances in red wine. Yeah right.

Likely this awkward antioxidant/polyphenol speculation is 99% pure BS. There’s a much simpler and more likely explanation.

Natural fat (like olive oil) is good for us – whether we’re talking about heart health, cancer or weight management. And too much refined carbs, especially white flour and pure sugar, is really bad.


Here’s earlier super-exciting findings from the PREDIMED trial:

More on Mediterranean diets:


  1. Johan
    Are these beneficial effects also due to low dairy in the Mediterranean diet?

    France may have a good score in the cardiovascular area, but is one of the top countries of prostate cancer incidence / capita, and is the top cheese consuming country. (Cheese is the dairy with the highest casein levels). Not proven causality of course, but I find it an interesting observation...


  2. Stipetic
    Johan, low dairy in Mediterranean diet? That's news to the Greeks, Italians and French, I'm sure. Greece, where I live, is the largest consumers of cheese in the world at over 27.7 kg/yr per capita versus 25.7 for France (based on 2012 data). Feta on the table at every meal; eaten with practically every food; served with ouzo, etc. Not sure how much water this casein link holds.
    Reply: #3
  3. Johan
    - Ok, to be more specific, I was referring to dairy of cow milk and its proteins (Correct me if I'm wrong, but Greek cheese is largerly sheep or goat's milk: Feta, Halloumi, ...).
    - France I mentioned, as high in prostate cancer, also I believe the cooking with most cream and cheese of mediterranean countries. The whole country is far from being a mediterranean style country in eating habits though.

    Difficult to find a single definition also for this type of cuisine.

    Reply: #5
  4. Janknitz
    Marin County, California has one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the U.S. This mostly affluent county has little polluting industry and people tend to live "healthy" lifestyles with a high percentage of vegans and vegetarians. Most tout their whole grains, low or no fat (and mostly seed oils if they do eat fat) and aerobic exercise as almost a religion there. Yet breast cancer rates are exceedingly high.

    While epidemiologists keep looking for something in the water and air, I have long thought that the ubiquitous so-called "healthy" diet that they practice is to blame.

  5. Murray
    Johan, the table you link to shows Belgium as low compared to France and Belgium is a high-dairy country with mostly cow's milk--indeed, Belgium is half French. Italy is a mix of cow, sheep, goat and buffalo. Population-level data is rarely helpful, unless some underlying causal mechanism can be identified. I've yet to see any plausible link between casein, much less casein unique to cows, to mechanisms in the development of prostrate or any other cancer. Maybe French men ride bicycles a lot more than men in other countries.
    Reply: #10
  6. Nate
    Slowly, brick by brick the wall protecting the insanity of the low fat diet advice is coming down.

    What will the pharmaceutical companies do then? See: http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/miracleindustry/americas-most-admi...

    I don't known what the huge costs of the obesity and diabetes epidemics are or how they are calculated, but I bet they don't include all of the costs as the damage of the diseases of civilization are vast and effect nearly everything.

  7. BobM
    I agree with Murray on this one. It's difficult to draw any conclusions looking at data from countries. For instance, in the table Johan linked to, there are three entries for France, each of which is dramatically different. Furthermore, on this table:


    Iceland and France have similar dairy intakes yet have "different" rates of prostate cancer (one location in France is basically the same as Iceland).

    Personally, I'm not a big believer in EVOO. If anything, this study could indicate that less carbohydrate content is better, and EVOO could simply be a fat they used. (Same with nuts -- nuts and EVOO have to replace calories, which likely replace carbs.) Maybe they should have had everyone use lard and beef fat to see what would happen. Make that the fourth prong. Of course, when that came out to be the best prong, they wouldn't know what to do with the results.

    Reply: #8
  8. Murray
    BobM, I agree it is entirely unclear why the EVOO made such a difference, especially as compared to nuts. It could be polyphenols and such unique to olive oil. It could be that nuts have more carbs or omega-6. It could be that the free-flowing oil aids absorption of nutrients from the leafy greens and other vegetables, whereas the fat in nuts is encased in cells, slow to release and thus less effective in enhancing nutrient absorption and moderating glucose absorption and so blood sugar and insulin response. So depending on what the causality was, EVOO may or not be uniquely beneficial or could easily be replaced, for example, by avocado oil or butter. We simply don't know from this study.
  9. BobM
    I agree with everything you say, Murray, expect for EVOO making such a difference. The actual risk is very small: 0.013-0.005 is .008 in terms of absolute risk. They use relative risk (62%) because that sounds like a lot, but the actual risk difference is tiny. They only identified 35 cases of breast cancer in the groups in 5 years. And that's total, out of 4,282 women. That's 0.008 percent.

    Here are the results :

    Results After a median follow-up of 4.8 years, we identified 35 confirmed incident cases of breast cancer. Observed rates (per 1000 person-years) were 1.1 for the Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil group, 1.8 for the Mediterranean diet with nuts group, and 2.9 for the control group. The multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios vs the control group were 0.32 (95% CI, 0.13-0.79) for the Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil group and 0.59 (95% CI, 0.26-1.35) for the Mediterranean diet with nuts group. In analyses with yearly cumulative updated dietary exposures, the hazard ratio for each additional 5% of calories from extra-virgin olive oil was 0.72 (95% CI, 0.57-0.90).

    They even state the following: "Nevertheless, these results need confirmation by long-term studies with a higher number of incident cases."

    So, it's an interesting result, but I wouldn't run out and buy EVOO and start guzzling it down.

  10. Johan
    I realise this is just a hunch.

    By googling there seems to be some evidence of IGF-1 hormone (linked to casein) boosting cancers, which does not feel wrong given that milk is made to boost growth of calfs, thus accelerating cell-splitting.

    Still there is nothing conclusive obviously.

    Reply: #11
  11. Murray
    Johan, I would expect more so the whey protein than the casein. Whey is designed to build tissue: look at what the bodybuilders use for protein supplement. They are not using casein. Casein protein is bio-engineered to transport calcium and phosphorus by encasing them (en-"case" = "case"-ien) . Whey is much more easily digested bio-available protein, whereas much of the more-difficult-to-digest casein passes through the gut and is fermented by bacteria into butyrate, which feeds the gut lining cells and reduces the risk of colon cancer. One of the reasons I prefer cheese to milk or yoghurt is that the whey has been drained off. The difficulty of digesting casein can be a problem for people with leaky gut, as casein peptides can get into the bloodstream and cause immune responses and other havoc.

    Another factor that could affect the prostrate specifically is the calcium in dairy. Too much calcium without sufficient fat soluble vitamins K2, D3 and retinol (to activate the matrix GLA protein) can result in calcium buildup in soft tissue. The prostrate seems especially prone to calcification in the event of inflammation from time to time (likely due to the topology and size of the prostrate), and the calcification may make the prostrate more likely to become cancerous. I have seen studies reporting unusual links between calcium consumption and prostrate cancer and studies suggest dietary vitamin K2 (MK-7 form) reduces risk of prostrate cancer.

    Reply: #12
  12. Johan
    Interesting, thanks for the info/thoughts.

    Watch out for Ricotta in that case - it's a "whey-cheese" :)

    Reply: #13
  13. Murray
    Yes, ricotta is a rare post-workout treat for me. A local cheesemaker sells still-warm-fresh-made-that-morning ricotta on Saturdays and people line up for it.
  14. Angela fanelli
    I began low carb high fat 6 weeks ago and have successfully lost 15 lb. But I had blood work done this week and they called yesterday to tell me my cholesterol is high.
    What is the current explanation and what can I expect going forward. I would like to continue with this way of eating.
  15. Tess Watt Thompson
    October is Breast Cancer awareness month here in North America. I was just reading an article telling women the top things to do to lower their risk.

    Here is one of the risks listed: "Eating a high-fat diet. In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the National Cancer Institute found that women who consumed the most fat—regardless of what type—were 15% more likely to develop breast cancer than women who ate the least fat".
    Apparently, this is still a widely believed risk for breast cancer.
    I read so much conflicting information and evidence/studies. It's exhausting and confusing to understand what is truly best for my health.

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