Latest scientific news 28 November 2019

Mediterranean diet and cancer: what human and molecular studies say about it

In this publication, the evidence of observational and randomized controlled trials regarding the association between the Mediterranean diet (MD) and cancer as well as possible mechanisms involved, are assessed.

The authors conclude that the Mediterranean diet (MD) seems clearly linked to preventing the development of cancer, as reported in observational studies and respective meta-analyses. Its individual components (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, moderate wine consumption and a reduced intake of red/processed meat) have also been linked to cancer prevention benefits in meta-analyses of prospective human studies, with several molecular mechanisms supporting this hypothesis.

MD consists of a healthy nutrient matrix whose individual components may moderate cancer risk by complementary mechanisms. One of them is the role of oxidative stress on cell proliferation. MD is known to be an antioxidant-rich dietary pattern and may directly neutralize reactive oxygen molecules.

Regarding ethanol, the attribution of anti-cancer effects seems controversial, however, it cannot be forgotten that a low-to-moderate wine consumption contributes to higher MD adherence scores (linked to many described health benefits). In addition, it provides high doses of some bioactive compounds (polyphenols) such as flavonoids and the possible counter-regulatory effects on the entire dietary components against the toxicity of ethanol have not been explored.

However, further efforts in the context of dietary intervention trials are needed to confirm this protective effect with the highest level of scientific evidence.

Hernáez A, Estruch R, The Mediterranean Diet and cancer: what do human and molecular studies have to say about it? Nutrients 2019, 11, 2155, https://doi:10.3390/nu11092155

For more information about this article, read the scientific abstract here.