Fast Like The Greek Monks and Live To A Ripe Old Age!
By Jo Willey
Dec 7th, 2007, Daily Express
Living like a monk can help you beat cancer.
Researchers studying the 1,500 inhabitants of 20 Greek monasteries found that they have some of the lowest rates of the disease in the world.
But, before you all rush off to take your monastic vows, let us point out the drawbacks. The monks' daily regime begins with an hour of prayers before dawn. At breakfast - a piece of hard, dry bread and a cup of tea with no milk -they sit in silence while passages from the Greek scriptures are read from a pulpit in the refectory. Much of the day is taken up with manual labour in the gardens. The monks grow most of what they eat. But there is little dairy produce because female animals, as well as women, are banned. Olive oil is allowed,but only on alternate days. And fish is a treat reserved for feast days.
The good news is that they are allowed to drink the local red wine - but only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and at weekends.
The result of all this abstinence is that lung and bladder cancer are unknown on the remote, mountainous peninsula. Rates of prostate cancer are also extremely low. Since 1994, when doctors began testing the monks
regularly, only 11 have developed the disease. That works out at less than a quarter of the international average.
Haris Aidonopoulos, a urologist at the University of Thessaloniki, said the monks' diet could explain the difference in the statistics. "What seems to be the key is a diet that alternates between olive oil and non-olive oil days, and plenty of plant proteins.
Small, simple meals at regular intervals are very important." Michalis Hourdakis, a dietician associated with Athens University, said:
"This limited consumption of calories has been found to lengthen life. "Meat has been associated with intestinal cancer, while fruit and vegetables help ward off prostate cancer."
A diet based on staple foods like fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice and soya dishes, as well as bread and olives is thought to be the key to the monks's good health. The lack of air pollution on Mount Athos, as well as their hard work in the fields, also play a part, the researchers said. Kim Hardwick, a senior nurse with charity Cancerbackup, said: "We know that people can reduce their risk of cancer by making lifestyle choices."
"Eating a well-balanced diet that includes five portions of fruit and vegetables and cutting down on the amount of red meat we eat has also been shown to reduce the risk of cancer."
Dr. Julie Sharp, of Cancer Research UK, said: "Our diet influences our risk of many cancers, including cancers of the bowel, stomach, mouth, throat and breast. You can reduce your cancer risk by eating a healthy, balanced diet that is high in fiber, fruit and vegetables, and low in red and processed meat and saturated fat."