Stomach cancer survival rates are relatively low, making pinpointing risk factors an important research goal. Among the things research has discovered that a person can do to lower his or her stomach cancer risk: enjoy the tasty and healthful Mediterranean style of eating.
More Mediterranean, less risk
The findings come out of the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) study, a long-term research effort focused on determining how nutrition and lifestyle factors affect risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Researchers collected diet information from 485,044 men and women aged 35 to 70 years, from ten European countries. They developed an 18-point scale to track how closely people were following a Mediterranean diet. (A higher score represented a “more Mediterranean” diet.)
After 9 years of follow-up:
Compared to those not following a Mediterranean diet, people most closely following a Mediterranean diet had 33% lower risk of stomach cancer.
Each 1-unit increase on the 18-point Mediterranean diet scale resulted in a 5% decreased risk of stomach cancer.
Overall, sticking closely to a Mediterranean diet significantly reduced the risk of stomach cancer.
Enjoying Mediterranean fare
In addition to being tasty, the great thing about the Mediterranean diet is that it’s so good for you for many reasons. The Mediterranean diet is also linked to lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, other cancers, and dementia. If you want to go Mediterranean:
Focus on fresh vegetables and fruit, important staples in this style of eating.
Aim to have two-thirds to three-quarters of your plate covered by vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans.
Enjoy fish one to two times per week. Opt for wild-caught, seasonal fish when you can.
Keep red meat to 3-ounce portions or less, a few times per week or less.
Eat the right fats. Olive oil is used almost exclusively in the traditional Mediterranean diet. Also try avocados, a rich source of healthy, monounsaturated fats.
Snack on nuts and seeds. Try walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, and flaxseeds.
Include fermented dairy, such as yogurt and kefir.
Go whole…grains that is. Keep refined grains, such as those found in regular pasta, to small portions.
More stomach-protecting tips
In addition to enjoying Mediterranean food, reduce your stomach cancer risk by:
Avoiding all forms of tobacco, including cigarettes
Using alcohol in moderation or not at all: no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women; one drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ½ ounces of hard alcohol
Not ignoring heartburn: It can signal the presence of H. pylori, a bacteria linked to increased stomach cancer risk, so alert your doctor
Limiting salty, cured, and smoked foods, all of which increase stomach cancer risk
(Am J Clin Nutr 2010; 91:381–90; American Cancer Society. How is Stomach Cancer Staged? Available at: www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_3X_How_is_stomach_cancer_staged_40.asp)
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.