A Mediterranean diet can reduce the threat of a deadly form of breast cancer by 40pc, a study has found.
Scientists monitored more than 62,000 women over a period of 20 years to see how their breast cancer risk was affected by what they ate.
Those who adhered most closely to a Mediterranean diet rich in plant protein, fish and olive oil were 40pc less likely to develop ER-negative breast cancer than women who adopted the diet the least.
This form of the disease, which is not stimulated by the sex hormone oestrogen, is often harder to treat than hormone-sensitive cancer and more likely to prove fatal.
Each year nearly 3,000 women in Ireland are diagnosed with breast cancer, 30pc of whom have ER-negative cancers. Around 700 women die from breast cancer in Ireland every year.
A typical Mediterranean diet includes high intakes of plant-based proteins such as nuts, lentils and beans, whole grains, fish and "healthy" monounsaturated fats.
Consumption of refined grain foods such as white bread or white rice, red meat and sweets is kept to a minimum.
"Our research can help to shine a light on how dietary patterns can affect our cancer risk," Professor Piet van den Brandt, from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who led the study published in the 'International Journal of Cancer', said.
"We found a strong link between the Mediterranean diet and reduced oestrogen-receptor negative breast cancer risk among post-menopausal women, even in a non-Mediterranean population.
"This type of breast cancer usually has a worse prognosis than other types."
Alcohol, which normally forms part of a traditional Mediterranean diet, was excluded from the study because of its known links to breast cancer.
For many of us humans, food presents a complex challenge when it comes to its consumption and regulation. Never in the history of mankind have we experienced such a glut of human fuel. Ireland has wonderful natural food resources, yet over decades, governments have failed to show any real interest or put any effort into helping Irish people make positive food choices.