March 17, 2023 – Women may now have their own reasons for adapting the ever-popular Mediterranean diet: It appears to reduce the risks of heart disease and death in women.
Those who closely followed a Mediterranean diet had a 24% lower risk of heart disease and a 23% lower risk of death over time compared to those following other types of diets. The diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seafood, lean protein, and healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts.
“The Mediterranean diet is known for its health benefits, especially for heart health, but most studies and research on diet and heart disease are done mainly on men,” said the leading author of author Anushriya Pant, a PhD candidate at the University of Australia’s Westmead Applied Research. Middle.
“In medical research, there are sex differences in how clinical trials are designed,” she said. “This creates large gaps in clinical data, which can affect the development of health advice. Our work is a step towards addressing this gap.”
In the new reportpublished in the journal heart, Pant and colleagues reviewed 16 studies published between 2006 and 2021 that included information on how closely people followed the Mediterranean diet and listed either all women or separated the results into by gender. The researchers excluded studies that only addressed certain components of the Mediterranean diet or combined it with other lifestyle-related factors.
The studies, which focused mostly on the US and Europe, included 722,495 adult women with no prior reports of heart disease and were monitored for an average of 12.5 years for their heart health.
Overall, those who more closely followed a Mediterranean diet were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease — including heart failure, heart attack, and other major adverse cardiovascular events — as well as death. . Although the risk of stroke was also lower, this was not considered statistically significant.
Additional analyzes showed similar risk reductions for women of different ethnicities who followed the Mediterranean diet. Women of European descent had a 24% lower risk of heart disease, and women of non-European descent (Asian, Native Hawaiian, and African American) had a 21% lower risk.
The researchers call for more sex-specific research on heart disease, including specific risk factors associated with menopause, pregnancy-related concerns such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, and autoimmune diseases that are more prominent in women, such as systemic lupus.
Future studies should also explore the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is associated with lower heart disease and death, they said. The diet can reduce inflammation, boost antioxidants, and benefit the gut microbiome. It is also rich in beneficial nutrients such as polyphenols (organic compounds found in some vegetables and fruits), nitrates, and omega-3 fatty acids, and it is high in fiber and low in glycemic load.
“What we eat today has important health implications for our cardiometabolic health for years to come,” said Samia Mora, MD, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Lipid Metabolomics at Brigham and Women’s. Hospital.
Mora, who was not involved in this study, has researched the links between the Mediterranean diet and heart health. He and colleagues found that women following the diet were more likely to have lower inflammation, insulin resistance, body mass index, and blood pressure.
“Women are often the primary food preparers, and their dietary habits influence other family members — especially children,” she said. “It’s exciting to see the results, with about a quarter reduction in fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events. This is very similar to the benefit we see with statin therapy, a commonly used drug to lower the cholesterol.”