Mediterranean diet can help women avoid an early death, study reveals

SYDNEY, Australia — Following the Mediterranean diet can slash a woman’s chance of dying by nearly 25 percent, a new study reveals. This healthy menu lowers the risk of coronary heart disease by 25 percent and cardiovascular disease by 24 percent, according to researchers in Australia.

The popular dieting plan also lowered the risk of stroke overall and the risk of dying of any cause by 23 percent. The diet is rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, fish, and extra virgin olive oil. These foods contain many healthy components, including polyphenols, nitrates, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber.

Researchers say sticking to the diet also significantly lowers a person’s intake of heart damaging saturated fats such as butter, dairy, and red meats. Researchers sifted through various studies to find the impact of the Mediterranean diet on women’s cardiovascular health and risk of death. Specifically, they studied 16 reports published between 2003 and 2021.

Mediterranean diet
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The studies, mainly from the United States and Europe, involved more than 700,000 women over the age of 18. Each person had their cardiovascular health monitored for an average of 12.5 years.

Results show sticking closely to a Mediterranean diet lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 24 percent. It also dropped the likelihood of death from any cause by 23 percent. The risk of coronary heart disease was 25 percent lower and they were less likely to suffer from stroke. However, the reason why this diet is particularly beneficial for women is still unclear.

Few studies specifically look at women’s heart health

According to the team, led by Dr. Sarah Zaman from the University of Sydney, “mechanisms explaining the sex specific effect of the Mediterranean diet on [cardiovascular disease] and death remain unclear.” Researchers add that the findings reinforce the need for more sex specific research in cardiology.

“Female specific cardiovascular risk factors, including premature menopause, pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, or female predominant risk factors, such as systemic lupus, can all independently increase [cardiovascular disease] risk,” the study authors write in a media release.

“It is possible that preventative measures, such as a Mediterranean diet, that targets inflammation and [cardiovascular disease] risk factors, impose differing effects in women compared with men.”

Cardiovascular disease accounts for more than a third of all deaths in women around the world. However, many clinical trials and research include relatively few women and do not often report results by sex. The current guidelines on how to effectively lower cardiovascular disease also do not differentiate by gender. This latest study calls for more sex specific research to help guide clinical practice in heart health.

This study is published in the journal Heart.

South West News Service writer Alice Clifford contributed to this report.

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