—by Jeff Jurmain, MA
U.S. researchers have discovered yet another health benefit of olive oil. This time: it may help breast cancer survivors shed more pounds than a traditional low-fat diet.
It’s a significant issue that goes beyond simple body image. Excess weight at the time of breast cancer diagnosis, or even moderate weight gain during cancer treatment, is associated with a higher risk of the cancer returning. That especially goes for post-menopausal women. And not enough breast cancer patients understand this link between weight and cancer recurrence.
In this one-of-a-kind study, women followed two 1,500-calorie diets. One was a conventional low-fat diet and the other a plant-based diet with olive oil that resembles the Mediterranean diet (considered the healthiest diet in the world). After two months on each diet, each person chose one diet to follow for another six months to see if they could maintain weight or lose more.
According to the study, 80% of women who started with the olive oil diet lost more than five percent of their baseline weight. This compares to 31% on the low-fat diet. This is a great result. Even more encouraging is the fact that most women decided to stick with the olive oil diet for the six-month follow-up period. Why? They found the food more appetizing, accessible and affordable.
Extra virgin olive oil, extremely high in unsaturated fats (healthy) and oleic acid (tied to disease prevention), has been linked with protection from breast cancer risk in Greece, Spain and Italy. The diet followed in the study included at least three tablespoons of oil per day, with nuts at breakfast. Women also ate three servings of fruit and unlimited vegetables daily, and whole grains were also emphasized. Women could eat limited amounts of poultry and fish per week, but red meat and other sources of saturated fat were prohibited.
The low-fat diet was less restrictive, consisting of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, approximately 25 to 50 grams of fat (including canola oil), and six to seven ounces of lean meat (not red meat) daily.
The study included 44 overweight women with invasive breast cancer after the age of 50. All received meal plans and recipe ideas and kept food diaries throughout. Overall, 28 of the 44 women completed both diets and 19 of the 22 eligible for the six months of follow-up chose to follow the plant-based olive oil diet. All 19 of them either maintained their new weight, or lost additional pounds.
Great news that can be applied to anyone, breast cancer or not.