Add one more reason to reach for extra virgin olive oil and veggies. Mediterranean diet adherents were found to have a lower risk of mouth cancer in a recent study.

A study published in the British Journal of Cancer in August found that eating a diet rich in minimally processed fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish and olive oil significantly lowered the risk of developing mouth cancer. While all subjects adhering to the diet were found to have a lower rate of cancer over the 12-year period, young adults, non-smokers and those with a higher level of education had the lowest risk levels.

To see the positive effects of the Mediterranean diet, one has to look no further than the people in the region: Italians have some of the lowest rates of mouth cancer in Europe.

According to Dr. Nigel Carter, the chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, while eating raw, unprocessed foods seems to reduce the risk for mouth cancer, it is perhaps more about what you’re not eating.

“It’s really interesting to note just how the risk for mouth cancer drops according to how thorough the Med diet is,” he said. “The absence of processed foods is a key element to this. Some experts believe poor diet accounts for more than half of mouth cancer cases in the UK, and the worst thing is it’s really simple to develop a diet that can keep you out of harm’s way.”

Carter recommends avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol and a low number of sweets to minimize one’s risk. He says that adhering to the diet also has all-around positive oral health benefits, as many of its staple foods—fruits and vegetables—have positive effects on the rate of gum disease.

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