Can a Mediterranean diet help prevent colon cancer?

June 13, 2007

Are all healthy eating plans the same when it comes to cancer prevention?

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center are beginning a study to look at whether diet can impact a person’s risk of developing colon cancer. Specifically, the researchers will compare a Mediterranean diet – high in olive oil, nuts and fish – with a standard healthy eating plan.

“Overall eating patterns appear to be more important for cancer prevention than intakes of specific nutrients or food groups. We hope this study will give us an indication of the benefits that a person’s diet can have on health, especially in terms of reducing the risk of colon cancer,” says Zora Djuric, Ph.D., research professor of family medicine at the U-M Medical School and principal investigator on the Healthy Eating for Colon Cancer Prevention study.

The study will look at adults age 21 or older who have had colon polyps, colon cancer or a family history of colon cancer. Researchers hope to recruit 120 participants over three years. Participants will be randomly assigned to follow either the Mediterranean diet or the Healthy People 2010 diet for six months. A dietitian will work closely with each participant by telephone. Participants can choose foods they prefer from recommended food group lists.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on vegetables, whole grains, fruits, fish and olive oil. High fat meats and processed foods are limited. The comparison diet is the Healthy People 2010 diet, which is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ plan for healthy eating. The Healthy People 2010 diet involves eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and a moderate fat intake with limits on saturated fat.

Study participants assigned to the Mediterranean diet will be encouraged to limit polyunsaturated fats from foods such as corn oil in favor of monounsaturated fats from olive oil, nuts and fatty plant-based foods such as olives. Mediterranean diet participants will also be expected to eat seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables, including herbs, and get protein primarily from low-fat sources such as poultry, fish and legumes.

Previous studies have linked the Mediterranean diet to reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. Some evidence suggests the Mediterranean diet causes changes in the colon that would prevent cancer.

U-M researchers recently concluded a study of 70 women ages 25-65 who were randomly divided between following a Mediterranean diet or following their usual dietary habits. The researchers found the study participants were able to stick to the Mediterranean diet throughout the study. The women following a Mediterranean diet decreased the amount of polyunsaturated fat they ate by 50 percent while increasing the amount of healthy monounsaturated fats by the same amount. The women also ate twice as many fruits and vegetables as those following their regular diet. This doubled the blood levels of carotenoids, which are antioxidant micronutrients from fruits and vegetables.

Researchers believe changes in dietary fatty acids from the higher monounsaturated fat intake with a Mediterranean diet will decrease the levels of certain proteins in the body that are linked to the development of colon cancer. At the same time, other cancer-protective compounds are expected to increase because of the Mediterranean diet.

Source: University of Michigan Health System

Explore further: GM soybean oil causes less obesity and insulin resistance but is harmful to liver function

Related Stories

GM soybean oil causes less obesity and insulin resistance but is harmful to liver function

October 2, 2017
Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have tested a genetically-modified (GM) soybean oil used in restaurants and found that while it induces less obesity and insulin resistance than conventional soybean ...

Eating a Mediterranean diet could cut womb cancer risk

May 27, 2015
Women who eat a Mediterranean diet could cut their risk of womb cancer by more than half (57 per cent), according to a study published today in the British Journal of Cancer.

Mediterranean diet plus olive oil associated with reduced breast cancer risk

September 14, 2015
Eating a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil was associated with a relatively lower risk of breast cancer in a study of women in Spain, according to an article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

The compound in the Mediterranean diet that makes cancer cells 'mortal'

May 20, 2013
New research suggests that a compound abundant in the Mediterranean diet takes away cancer cells' "superpower" to escape death. By altering a very specific step in gene regulation, this compound essentially re-educates cancer ...

Even high-fat Mediterranean diet good for you: review

July 19, 2016
(HealthDay)—Even a high-fat Mediterranean diet may protect against breast cancer, diabetes and heart disease, a new review finds.

The specifics of the Mediterranean diet for colorectal health

June 30, 2017
The benefits of a Mediterranean diet (MD) are well-known when it comes to colorectal protection, but it's hard to know specifically what elements of the diet are the healthiest.

Recommended for you

Lung cancer triggers pulmonary hypertension

November 17, 2017
Shortness of breath and respiratory distress often increase the suffering of advanced-stage lung cancer patients. These symptoms can be triggered by pulmonary hypertension, as scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Heart ...

Researchers discover an Achilles heel in a lethal leukemia

November 16, 2017
Researchers have discovered how a linkage between two proteins in acute myeloid leukemia enables cancer cells to resist chemotherapy and showed that disrupting the linkage could render the cells vulnerable to treatment. St. ...

Computer program finds new uses for old drugs

November 16, 2017
Researchers at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have developed a computer program to find new indications for old drugs. The computer program, called DrugPredict, ...

Pharmacoscopy improves therapy for relapsed blood cancer in a first clinical trial

November 16, 2017
Researchers at CeMM and the Medical University of Vienna presented a preliminary report in The Lancet Hematology on the clinical impact of an integrated ex vivo approach called pharmacoscopy. The procedures measure single-cell ...

Wider sampling of tumor tissues may guide drug choice, improve outcomes

November 15, 2017
A new study focused on describing genetic variations within a primary tumor, differences between the primary and a metastatic branch of that tumor, and additional diversity found in tumor DNA in the blood stream could help ...

A new strategy for prevention of liver cancer development

November 14, 2017
Primary liver cancer is now the second leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide, and its incidences and mortality are increasing rapidly in the United Stated. In late stages of the malignancy, there are no effective ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.