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Can the Mediterranean diet reduce my risk of gastrointestinal (GI) cancer?

You could cut your risk of stomach cancer by a whopping 33 percent if you eat like a Greek.

That means bulking up on fruit, vegetables, legumes and healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, seeds and fish. And taking it easy on red meat, dairy and alcohol. These are all key characteristics of a Mediterranean-style diet.

You've probably never thought twice about your risk of stomach cancer. It's not a terribly common cancer, but the prognosis is poor if it's found in the late stages. Still, like so many diseases, the ability to reduce risk is in your hands. While a recent nine-year study revealed the powerful stomach-cancer-thwarting potential of Mediterranean-type diets, limiting salt in your diet and not smoking are also helpful habits when it comes to stomach health.

Many other studies have suggested a cancer-preventive benefit to a Mediterranean diet. And researchers posit that the disease defense may come from eating a greater quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables because doing so automatically ups your intake of protective antioxidants like vitamin C, flavonoids, carotenoids and phenols. And eating less meat is a boon to disease prevention as well. 

A public health study found that strict adherence to the Mediterranean Diet, which includes an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, and moderate amounts of nuts, fish, and healthy cooking oils such as canola oil and olive oil, was associated with a 50 percent decrease in the risk of gastrointestinal (GI) tract cancers. The role of diet in the prevention of cancers of the GI tract appears to be particularly strong. GI cancers include cancer of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, and anus, as well as cancers of the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts inside and outside the liver. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.