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The Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of stomach cancer

A newly published systematic review and meta-analysis, types of studies that sit at the top of the hierarchy of medical research, provides evidence that the Mediterranean diet may be linked to a lower risk of stomach cancer, which had an estimated 26,500 new cases in the USA in 2023. It makes up around 1.5% of all cancers in the USA

The lifetime risk of developing stomach cancer is higher in men (about 1 in 96) than in women (about 1 in 152). And about 40% of those who get stomach cancer die of the disease.

So if there is a way to prevent or, at least, reduce the risk of stomach cancer, then we should consider it. This study indicates that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of stomach cancer.

As I usually do, let’s take a look at this new study and provide you with the key data and conclusion.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is a diet that is common to the eating habits of people living in areas of the Mediterranean, including Greece, Southern Italy, and Spain. The diet generally includes proportionally higher amounts of olive oil, legumes, unrefined grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. It also includes moderate to high fish consumption, dairy products (generally, cheese and yogurt), moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of other meats.

Unfortunately, there is not a solid definition of this diet. In general, it is low in red meat, moderate in chicken and fish, and high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and legumes. But, it does vary from region to region around the Mediterranean.

During the 1940s and 50s, scientists observed that people who consumed the Mediterranean diet seemed to be objectively healthier (broadly defined) and suffered from lower rates of obesity than other populations that ate other types of diets that included refined grains and non-fish meats.

There seems to be some moderate- to high-quality evidence that the Mediterranean diet is linked to improving numerous health outcomes, including type 2 diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

© 2009 Oldways Preservation and Exchange Trust

Mediterranean diet and stomach cancer research

In a systematic review and meta-analysis published on 1 September 2023 in the journal Nutrients, Dongqiu Dai, MD, Cancer Center, The Fourth Affiliated Hospital of China Medical University, Shenyang, China, and colleagues examined data from eleven published studies (with five case-control studies and six cohort studies) in this meta-analysis.

Here are their key results:

  • Adherence to a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of stomach cancer by 57%.
  • Adherence to a Mediterranean diet was linked to a 36% reduced risk of gastric cardia adenocarcinoma and a 32% reduced risk of gastric non-cardia adenocarcinoma (both subtypes of stomach cancer).
  • Higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduced stomach cancer risk in males more than in females.

The authors concluded:

Our results indicate that adherence to the Mediterrean diet reduces the risk of gastric cancer (stomach cancer) and its subtypes.


I’m beginning to be convinced that the Mediterranean diet is linked to better health outcomes in diseases that range from diabetes to cancer.

My one big concern about these types of studies is that adherence to a Mediterranean diet may indicate that the individual has behaviors that reduce the risk of something like cancer. For example, it’s possible that individuals who eat this kind of diet are less obese, exercise more, smoke less, or one of many other confounding factors.

However, this is a fairly well-done study with good statistical analyses and shows a solid reduction in the risk of stomach cancer. I’m giving this study a 4 out of 5 stars.


Michael Simpson

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