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3 health benefits of following a Mediterranean diet
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A new research study reports that following a Mediterranean diet reduces breast cancer risk. Here are three other health benefits of the high-fat diet. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
Eating like the Mediterraneans might be a tasty way to reduce breast cancer risk, according to a study released this week.

"Women who were randomly assigned to follow a Mediterranean diet one with lots of fruits, vegetables, olive oil and fish, but not much red meat, dairy or sugar had a 68 percent lower risk of breast cancer after 4.8 years, compared with women told to follow a low-fat diet," USA Today reported.

However, some breast cancer researchers worry that the study is too preliminary to influence treatment plans for women at risk for breast cancer, even if the Mediterranean diet has been lauded by a variety of health studies in the past.

The research doesn't offer strong enough evidence "to say that putting olive oil on your food is enough to prevent breast cancer," said breast surgeon Susan Love to USA Today. "(But) it's not going to hurt you. And it will be tasty."

Here are three other health benefits associated with eating like the Mediterraneans do, which are more widely accepted than the new breast cancer study:

1. Improved heart health

In 2013, a group of Spanish researchers made quite a splash with their rigorous research on the link between the Mediterranean diet and heart health. The study found that the diet reduced the risk of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease by 30 percent.

"The magnitude of the diet's benefits startled experts," The New York Times reported at the time.

However, the findings were limited by the study's focus on people at a high risk for heart disease. Researchers told the Times they couldn't be sure of the Mediterranean diet's benefits for people with healthy hearts, but they noted they'd all started following it.

2. Boosted brain functioning

Following the Mediterranean diet also keeps the brain strong, according to researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

Their review, which was published in 2013 in the journal Epidemiology, analyzed 12 studies on the diet and brain health, concluding that there was enough evidence to recommend the eating plan for people concerned about their aging brain.

"Mediterranean food is both delicious and nutritious, and our systematic review shows it may help to protect the aging brain," said one of the study's coauthors, Iliana Lourida, to The Huffington Post.

3. Better health later in life

Most research about the Mediterranean diet has highlighted the importance of following it from an early age. But older eaters should try to eat more fish, fruits and vegetables, too, according to a study on the benefits of following the diet during your 50s and 60s.

"Researchers looked at the dietary habits of more than 10,000 women in their 50s and 60s and compared them to how the women fared health-wise 15 years later," Harvard Health Publications reported in 2013. "Women who followed a healthy diet during middle age were about 40 percent more likely to live past the age of 70 without chronic illness and without physical or mental problems than those with less-healthy diets."
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