Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Type of Fats

Type of fat consumed and breast cancer diagnosis for Mediterranean Diet

SUMMARY:   Women  (eating the Mediterranean diet) consuming certain healthy fats were  less likely to have a breast cancer diagnosis while other fats increased the likelihood of a breast cancer diagnosis.  Seventeen women on the low-fat diet developed breast cancer, compared with 10 on the Mediterranean diet with nuts and eight on the Mediterranean diet with olive oil.

In particular, women consuming a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) were less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.  The women in the extra virgin olive oil-heavy Mediterranean diet group got 22% of their total calories from the oil, on average. However, the researchers wrote that getting at least 15% of total calories in the form of extra virgin olive oil “seems to be instrumental for obtaining this significant protection.”  If you use EVOO, please make sure you use unadulterated EVOO… scroll down to the lightbulb here for those details.

Though there was also a reduced likelihood of a breast cancer diagnosis consuming a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, it was not reduced as much as those consuming EVOO.  This group consumed extra servings of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds. A statistical analysis showed that the differences between the low-fat and nut-rich diets could have been due to chance.  This is significant since:

Most important: there was an increased likelihood of a breast cancer diagnosis when consuming a regular low-fat diet.  

This is just one more reason to get your arms around what is a healthy fat is and to not eat low or no fat

The study discussing the above can be found at Mediterranean Diet and Invasive Breast Cancer Risk Among Women at High Cardiovascular Risk in the PREDIMED Trial: A Randomized Clinical Trial, dated Sept. 14, 2015.

One caveat to note: USA Today (9/15, Szabo) reports, however, just “35 women of 4,200 women in the study developed breast cancer, said Barnett Kramer, director of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute, who wasn’t involved with the new study.” Thus, the “drop in breast cancer risk came from just a handful of breast cancers.”  Personally, I don’t particularly care about this issue since a trend reduction is a trend reduction.  I don’t need to see 100 cancers or more to buy into the finding learned for 35 cancers, especially when it involves a variable so easy to accommodate in our everyday lifestyles (choose unadulterated EVOO.)

The PREDIMED study 

The PREDIMED study was designed to assess the cardiovascular benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil. They looked at incidence of breast cancer as a side note!

Participants in the  PREDIMED study were male and female, white, between the ages of 60 and 80, and all had Type 2 diabetes or at least three risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, too much “bad” cholesterol or a history of smoking. Think about that patient population.  It is likely your normal American given today’s disease epidemics (see below slide.)  The breast cancer correlation part of the PREDIMED study targeted a very specific population of women at high risk of heart disease and tracked 7,500 people for about five years. Women in the study had an average age of 67 and an average body mass index of 30, making them obese. Mayo Clinic’s Key Components of the Mediterranean diet are:

Heads up:  The findings in this study is no magic bullet for the prevention of breast cancer; it’s much more complicated. But… every little bit of helpful nudge in the direction of health certainly adds up.

 Dr. Love, author of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book, who wasn’t involved in the new studysaid there’s no risk to following a Mediterranean diet, given its proven benefits for the heart.  The new cardiovascular findings come from the same Spanish study that, in 2013, found that a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke or death from heart disease by 30% over 4.8 years.

“It’s not enough to say that putting olive oil on your food is enough to prevent breast cancer,” Love said, but “It’s not going to hurt you.”

Finding relevance for younger women or non-white racial groups:

The authors note these findings may not apply to women who are younger, in better health or from other racial groups.  Even so, women would have nothing to lose – and potential much to gain – by eating more like the people in the Mediterranean, according to Dr. Mitchell H. Katz, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of 3 groups –
  1. Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil,
  2. Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds) or a
  3. Regular low-fat diet.
The finding was that the type of fat consumed and breast cancer diagnosis mattered;  EVOO was best for less likelihood of a cancer diagnosis.
The risk of being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer was highest for women who were advised to eat less fat.
The risk of being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer was lowest for women who ate Mediterranean plus EVOO.
The risk of being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer was reduced for women who were ate Mediterranean plus nuts but not as much as those eating Mediterranean plus EVOO.

In the raw analysis, the women in the extra virgin olive oil group were 62% less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer during the course of the study than were women in the regular low-fat group. After accounting for a variety of factors such as the age, body mass index, exercise and drinking habits of the women, the breast cancer risk was 68% lower for the extra virgin olive oil group compared with the low-fat group.

The women who followed the Mediterranean diet with extra servings of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds were about 40% less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than their counterparts on the low-fat diet. However, considering the small number of breast cancer cases, that difference wasn’t large enough to be statistically significant.

What’s so beneficial about EVOO?

My readers know that you need to consume the correct type and amount of healthy fat to absorb carotenoids.  If you are a stranger to that and as to why you need and want carotenoids (generally, you are likely deficient in them, they have antioxidant effects scavenging and quenching free radicals, and they are associated with reduced risk of a variety of common diseases including multiple types of cancer including breast cancerread the post, MEET THE FATS & BEST SALAD DRESSING OIL, PART1.  In a nutshell, EVOO is rich in monunsaturated fats and concomitantly has a lower polyunsaturated fat profile and these fats absorbed carotenoids best.

Equally important is what you are not consuming when instead you are consuming EVOO, and that would be soybean oil, corn oil, and vegetable oil (as most contains soybean oil) which has been shown to be linked to Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome and when eaten with fructose, to cause symptoms (in mice) that are seen in IBD.  For those details, read the post, SOYBEAN OIL, CORN OIL, DIABETES, AND METABOLIC SYNDROME.  

The PREDIMED study, page 7, explains EVOO benefits:

The presumed antiatherogenic properties of olive oil have been mainly attributed to its high oleic acid content. However, in recent years converging evidence indicates that polyphenols,present in VOO, but not in common refined olive oils (ROO), may contribute to the benefits of its consumption (PérezJiménez, 2005). The concentration of phytochemicals in oils is influenced by the oil extraction procedures. VOO is obtained from the first pressing of the ripe fruit and has a high content in antioxidants (tocopherols, polyphenols, flavonoids) and phytosterols. Lower quality ROO lose antioxidant capacity because polyphenols are lost in the refining process, although fatty acid composition is similar to that of VOO (Ramirez-Tortosa, 1999; Lercker, 2000). VOO phenolics (mainly, hydroxityrosol and tyrosol) have shown strong antioxidant and antiinflammatory activity in vitro (De la Puerta, 1999, 2001; Manna, 2002; Visioli, 2002).

This article notes other benefits of EVOO:

EVOO could be a potent cancer-fighter, the study authors wrote. It is rich in oleic acid, a substance that helped kill breast cancer cells in laboratory experiments. It’s also high in squalene, a compound that has antioxidant effects in breast cells.

Extra virgin olive oil also contains several polyphenols with pharmacologic effects. Among them, oleocanthal has been found to block the spread of breast cancer cells; oleuropein seems to induce breast cancer cells to self-destruct; hydroxytyrosol counteracts damage to breast cells caused by reactive oxygen species; and lignans have been associated with areduced breast cancer risk.

How to practically increase use of EVOO

You chuckled seeing the slide from Whole Foods Market advertising Salad Cooking class.  After all, how difficult is it to toss together greens, vegetables, fruit, and a salad dressing?  Often, I find

embellishment7The greatest medicine of all is to teach people how not to eat!embellishment7

You now understand the importance of choosing  MUFA over PUFA.  Reread the post, MEET THE FATS & BEST SALAD DRESSING OIL, PART1 if you need a refresher.  A big practical diet change up to do so is to make your own salad dressings since you won’t find them with MUFA in the grocery!  Family Favorite EVOO, Red Wine Vinegar, and Honey is a good place to start.  For more great recipes, all of which use MUFA — EVOO, check out the Pinterest Salad Dressing Board.  From that board, the Fabulous Greek House Dressing (from a pizzeria restaurant) and the Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette dressings are also always in my healing refrigerators.

Though the findings in this study is no magic bullet for the prevention of breast cancer; every little bit helps and you have the power to choose what fats you want to consume!

Last updated: March 22, 2016 at 21:56 pm
Make sure you share the news!  In health through awareness,




8 thoughts on “Type of fat consumed and breast cancer diagnosis for Mediterranean Diet”

  1. Lots of great tips on Dr. Mark Hyman’s post, Is Your Olive Oil Really Olive Oil?

    Smoke point for oils:
    Sunflower oil, unrefined: 225 F
    Red Palm Oil: 302 F
    Walnut oil, Unrefined: 320 F
    Coconut oil unrefined: 350 F
    Extra-virgin olive oil: 375 F
    Macadamia oil: 413 F
    Almond oil: 420 F
    Hazelnut oil: 430 F
    Avocado oil: 520 F

    For all oils, always tightly close the lid after using; oxygen can make oil go rancid quickly.

    EVOO: Always choose extra-virgin olive oil which is derived from the first pressing of the olives. EVOO lowered inflammation while oil from later pressings did not. Want unfiltered which will appear to be cloudy because it contains naturally occurring elements like antioxidants and buffer acids which protect against oxidative damage. Also look for cold-pressed olive oil, which means manufacturers use very little heat when processing olives to get the oil. Cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil provides the strongest possible nutrient value because of low-heat processing, coupled with the oil’s first pressing high phytonutrient content.Should be in dark glass. Store olive oil in a dark, cool place. Use it within 1 to 2 months of opening.

    Coconut oil: organic, virgin, cold-pressed and unrefined. And avoid products that are deodorized or bleached.

    Palm oil: likes b/c of nutritional value. The color of the oil is important. True, virgin, unrefined red palm oil is naturally reddish in color and comes loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Refined palm oil, on the other hand, is highly processed and loses its red color, as well as its taste and health benefits. Only buy products with sustainable palm oil. Look for the Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) label.

    Avoid “palm kernel oil,” refined palm oil or crude oil – all of which is extremely processed. Palm oil can be listed under many names, including palmitate, glyceryl stearate, and palm kernel oil.

  2. Another health benefit gleemed from the PREDIMED study: “A MedDiet enriched with EVOO may protect against diabetic retinopathy but not diabetic nephropathy,” the authors write in Sept 13 Diabetes Care. Study link: Mediterranean Diet May Protect Against Diabetic Retinopathy Andrés Díaz-López, from Rovira i Virgili University in Reus, Spain, and colleagues conducted a post hoc analysis of a cohort of patients with type 2 diabetes participating in the PREvención con DIeta MEDiterránea (PREDIMED) study. Patients with type 2 diabetes (3,614 participants free of cardiovascular complications at enrollment; aged 55 to 80 years) were randomly assigned to one of three dietary interventions: MedDiet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil (MedDiet+EVOO), MedDiet supplemented with mixed nuts (MedDiet+Nuts), or a low-fat control diet. Over six years of follow up, 74 new cases of retinopathy and 168 cases of nephropathy were identified. The hazard ratios for diabetic retinopathy were 0.56 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.32 to 0.97) with the MedDiet+EVOO and 0.63 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.35 to 1.11) with the MedDiet+Nuts, compared to the control diet. For nephropathy, no between-group differences were seen. Assessing the yearly updated information on adherence to the MedDiet, the hazard ratio for retinopathy in the highest versus the lowest quintile was 0.34 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.13 to 0.89; P = 0.001 for trend), but no significant associations were found for nephropathy.

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