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One eating style may be best of all
More reasons to follow a Mediterranean eating style

Date published: 11/1/2009

HOW MUCH would you pay for a cocktail that could help you live longer and reduce your risk of breast cancer and other cancers, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and memory problems?

Research is converging, showing that a certain eating pattern is a powerful shield.

In the spring, researchers praised the Mediterranean diet as being even better than the traditional low-fat diet for preventing heart disease--reducing risks by 37 percent.

Now, the same eating pattern is garnering attention for its ability to reduce risks of cancer--particularly breast cancer--across many ethnic groups.

Evidence is mounting, in fact, that the Mediterranean eating pattern can strengthen both your body and your mind.

Here are some details:

A study of about 50,000 African-American women showed that those who ate well were one-third less likely to develop breast cancer than those who ate poorly. The study looked at the traditional "prudent" diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and low in sweets and processed meats.

Last week, European researchers looking at that same eating pattern--with the addition of olive oil to make it a Mediterranean diet--found a 35 percent reduction in breast cancer. They stated that the best eating pattern emphasizes vegetables, fruits, seafood and cooking with olive oil and sunflower oil.

Another study, by California researchers, found that healthy eating reduced breast cancer in Asian-American women. It studied about 2,200 older Asian women and found that those with the most Mediterranean eating style (heavy on vegetables, fruit and beans) had a 35 percent reduced risk of cancer compared with those who ate more meat and starch.

The same foods that prevent breast cancer and heart disease also seem to protect our brains. New York researchers followed a group of about 2,300 older Americans for four years. Those who had the most Mediterranean pattern of eating had a 40 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's than folks who ate unhealthy foods.


Not only does this eating style help our brains, it helps us live longer. Several international studies have found that people who follow a Mediterranean diet have a 10 percent to 20 percent lower death rate in any given year.

Yet the typical American eats fewer fruits and veggies and less heart-healthy monounsaturated fat than is recommended in the Mediterranean eating plan.

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For more information about the Mediterranean eating plan online, check out:

Oldways Preservation Trust: oldwayspt.org/med_diet.html

Mayo Clinic: mayoclinic .com (search for "Mediterranean diet")

American Diabetes Association: diabetes.org/diabetes-research/summaries/for-healthy-eating-think-greek.jsp

Alzheimer's Association: alz.org (search for "brain-healthy diet")

Jennifer Motl is a registered dietitian. Formerly of Fredericksburg, she now lives in Wisconsin.