Popular Diet Boosts Survival Rates for Cancer Patients Popular Diet Boosts Survival Rates for Cancer Patients

Popular Diet Boosts Survival Rates for Cancer Patients

Popular Diet Boosts Survival Rates for Cancer Patients

A new study finds that the Mediterranean diet is a powerful ally for health even after a cancer diagnosis.

According to the Italian study, those diagnosed with any type of tumor who had high adherence to the Mediterranean diet in the year before joining the study lived longer and had a lower risk of cardiovascular death, compared to those who had lower adherence to the Mediterranean diet.

The study, conducted as part of the UMBERTO collaborative project and published in the journal JACC CardioOncology, examined 800 Italian adults of both sexes, already diagnosed with cancer at the time of enrollment in the Moli-sani Study, between 2005 and 2010, one of the largest comprehensive population-based studies in Europe.

Participants were followed for more than 13 years, and detailed information about their food consumption was recorded during the year prior to participating in the study.

“The beneficial role of the Mediterranean diet in the primary prevention of some tumors is well known in the scientific literature. However, little is known about the potential benefits that this dietary pattern can offer to those already diagnosed with cancer,” says Marialaura Bonaccio, first author of the study and co-principal investigator of the Joint Research Platform in the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention.

Given that the number of cancer survivors is expected to increase in the coming years, possibly due to targeted and effective treatments, it is important to understand how a healthy diet can prolong survival. That is why Italian researchers examined the role of the Mediterranean diet in mortality in people who already had a history of cancer at the time of enrollment in the Moli-sani Study.

“Our study results suggest that people with cancer who reported high adherence to the Mediterranean diet had a 32% lower risk of death compared to participants who did not follow the Mediterranean diet,” he explains. “The benefit was particularly pronounced for cardiovascular mortality, which was reduced by 60%.”

“These data support an interesting hypothesis that different chronic diseases, such as tumors and heart disease, actually share the same molecular mechanisms,” said Maria Benedetta Donati, principal investigator at the Joint Platform and co-author of the study. “This is what is known in the literature as the ‘common ground’ from which these two groups of disorders arise.” 

“The Mediterranean diet is mainly composed of foods such as fruits, vegetables and olive oil, which are natural sources of antioxidant compounds, which could explain the observed advantage in terms of mortality not only from cancer, but also from cardiovascular diseases, which can be serious,” explains Chiara Tonelli, President of the Scientific Committee of the Umberto Veronesi Foundation, who participated in the study. “A diet particularly rich in these bioactive compounds can be reduced by diets rich in these bioactive compounds. The UMBERTO project is therefore aimed at increasing knowledge of the mechanisms, in order to clarify the benefits of this dietary model also for the most vulnerable populations, such as cancer survivors.”


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