March 17, 2023 – Women may now have their own reasons to adapt the ever-popular Mediterranean diet. it appears to reduce the risks of heart disease and death in women.
Those who closely followed the 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 diet. 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 of the studies and research on diet and heart disease have been done primarily in men,” said lead author Anushriya Pant, Ph.D., University of Westmead Applied Research, Australia. center
“In medical research, there are gender disparities in how clinical trials are designed,” she said. “This creates large gaps in clinical data that can impact the development of health advice. Our work is a step toward addressing this gap.”
In the new reportpublished in a journal heartPant and her colleagues analyzed 16 studies published between 2006 and 2021 that included information on how closely people followed the Mediterranean diet and enrolled all women or disaggregated the results by gender. The researchers excluded studies that looked at only certain components of the Mediterranean diet or that combined it with other lifestyle factors.
The studies, which were mostly focused in the US and Europe, included 722,495 adult women who had no previous reports of heart disease and were monitored for their heart health for an average of 12.5 years.
Overall, those who followed the Mediterranean diet more closely were less likely to have 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.
Further analysis 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 calls for more gender-specific research on heart disease, including specific risk factors associated with menopause, pregnancy-related concerns such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, and autoimmune diseases that are more prominent in women, such as systemic lupus erythematosus.
Future studies should also examine the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is associated with lower heart disease and death, they said. 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, as well as high in fiber and low glycemic load.
“What we eat today has important health implications for our cardiometabolic health for years to come,” says Samia Mora, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Lipid Metabolism at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Mora, who was not involved in this study, studied the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and heart health. She and colleagues found that women who followed the diet were more likely to have lower inflammation, insulin resistance, body mass index and blood pressure.
“Women are often the primary cooks and their diet affects other family members, particularly children,” she said. “It was amazing to see the results, reducing fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events by about a quarter. This is very similar to the benefit we see with statin therapy, which is commonly used to lower cholesterol.”