The traditional diet of Greece and cancer.
Sommaire de l'article
The term 'Mediterranean diet', implying that all Mediterranean people have the same diet, is a misnomer. The countries around the Mediterranean basin have different diets, religions and cultures. Their diets differ in the amount of total fat, olive oil, type of meat, wine, milk, cheese, fruits and vegetables; and the rates of coronary heart disease and cancer, with the lower death rates and longer life expectancy occurring in Greece. The diet of Crete represents the traditional diet of Greece prior to 1960. Analyses of the dietary pattern of the diet of Crete shows a number of protective substances, such as selenium, glutathione, a balanced ratio of n-6/n-3 essential fatty acids (EFA), high amounts of fibre, antioxidants (especially resveratrol from wine and polyphenols from olive oil), vitamins E and C, some of which have been shown to be associated with lower risk of cancer, including cancer of the breast. Epidemiological studies and animal experiments indicate that n-3 fatty acids exert protective effects against some common cancers, especially cancers of the breast, colon and prostate. Many mechanisms are involved, including suppression of neoplastic transformation, cell growth inhibition, and enhanced apoptosis and anti-angiogenicity, through the inhibition of eicosanoid production from n-6 fatty acids; and suppression of cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2), interleukin 1 (IL-1) and IL-6 gene expression by n-3 fatty acids. Recent intervention studies in breast cancer patients indicate that n-3 fatty acids, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in particular, increase the response to chemopreventive agents. In patients with colorectal cancer, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and DHA decrease cell proliferation, and modulate favourably the balance between colonic cell proliferation and apoptosis. These findings should serve as a strong incentive for the initiation of intervention trials that will test the effect of specific dietary patterns in the prevention and management of patients with cancer.