The Impact of a Mediterranean Diet on Long-Term Cancer Survivors

The Impact of a Mediterranean Diet on Long-Term Cancer Survivors

A study conducted in Italy found that long-term cancer survivors who adhered to a Mediterranean diet had a significantly lower risk of all-cause mortality compared to those with poor adherence. The research, led by Marialaura Bonaccio, PhD, of the IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo in Pozzilli, Italy, followed participants for nearly 13 years and discovered that high adherence to the diet was associated with a 32% reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality. This suggests that maintaining or adopting a Mediterranean diet after a cancer diagnosis could be beneficial for survivors.

In addition to the reduced risk of all-cause mortality, high adherence to the Mediterranean diet was also linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular mortality. The study reported a 58% decrease in cardiovascular mortality among survivors with high adherence compared to those with poor adherence. This is particularly significant as cancer patients are known to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease due to shared risk factors and potential disease mechanisms.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in foods that are natural sources of polyphenols, bioactive compounds with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antitumor properties. These compounds may play a role in preventing cardiovascular mortality by combating inflammation and oxidative stress. While the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, the researchers believe that the polyphenols in the diet could contribute to the observed benefits for cancer survivors.

Despite the promising findings, the study had several limitations that need to be considered. As an observational study, causality cannot be inferred, and other factors may have influenced the results. Additionally, the participants in the study had already survived an average of 9 years at baseline, which could have introduced “survival bias” and affected the outcomes.

Overall, the study provides valuable insights into the potential benefits of a Mediterranean diet for long-term cancer survivors. While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of action and to develop specific dietary recommendations for survivors, the findings suggest that adopting or maintaining a Mediterranean diet could have a positive impact on the health and longevity of individuals who have overcome cancer. More studies in diverse populations are warranted to confirm these results and to explore the broader implications for cancer survivorship.


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