March 17, 2023 — Women may now have their own reasons for adapting the ever-popular Mediterranean diet: It appears to reduce the risk 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 than those who followed other types of diets. The diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seafood, lean proteins, 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 primarily focus on men,” said lead author Anushriya Pant. , PhD student at the University of Australia. Westmead Applied Research Centre.
“In medical research, there are gender disparities in the design of clinical trials,” she said. “This creates large gaps in clinical data, which can potentially impact the development of health advice. Our work is a step towards closing this gap.”
In the new reportpublished in the journal Heart, Pant and colleagues analyzed 16 studies published between 2006 and 2021 that included information on how closely people followed the Mediterranean diet and recruited all women or separated results by gender. The researchers excluded studies that only referenced certain components of the Mediterranean diet or combined them with other lifestyle factors.
The studies, which were primarily focused on the United States and Europe, included 722,495 adult women who had no previous reports of heart disease and were monitored for an average of 12.5 years for their heart health. .
Overall, those who followed a Mediterranean diet more closely were less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease – including heart failure, heart attacks and other major adverse cardiovascular events – as well as death. Although the risk of stroke was also lower, it was not considered statistically significant.
Other analyzes showed similar reductions in risk 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, Hawaiian, and African American) had a 21% lower risk.
Researchers call for more gender-specific research into heart disease, including specific risk factors related to menopause, pregnancy-related issues such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, and autoimmune diseases that are more important in women, such as systemic lupus.
Future studies should also explore why the Mediterranean diet is linked to lower heart disease and death, they said. The diet can reduce inflammation, boost antioxidants and benefit the gut microbiome. It’s also high in beneficial nutrients like polyphenols (organic compounds found in some vegetables and fruits), nitrates, and omega-3 fatty acids, and it’s high in fiber and low in glycemic load.
“What we eat today has important implications for our cardiometabolic health for years to come,” said Samia Mora, MD, 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, studied the links between the Mediterranean diet and heart health. She and her colleagues found that women who follow the diet are more likely to have lower inflammation, insulin resistance, body mass index and blood pressure.
“Women are often the primary meal preparers and their eating habits influence other family members, especially children,” she said. “It was striking 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 drug commonly used to reduce cholesterol.”