March 15, 2023 | 2:31 pm
Women who follow the Mediterranean diet have a nearly 25% lower risk of heart disease and premature death, according to a new analysis.
Research from a team from the University of Sydney, published in the journal Heart, looked at data from 16 studies conducted between 2003 and 2021.
The study participants were mainly from the US and Europe and consisted of more than 700,000 women aged 18 and over, and their cardiovascular health was followed for an average of 12.5 years.
Findings suggest that closely following a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 24% – 25% lower for coronary heart disease in particular – and the risk of death from any cause by 23%
The Mediterranean diet — named the best diet overall for the sixth year in a row by U.S. News & World Report — emphasizes the importance of sourcing quality foods and filling your plate with nutrient-dense whole foods and grains, with an emphasis on fresh produce, lean proteins, such as fish and chicken, and, of course, antioxidant-rich olive oil.
The Med diet is derived from the traditional diets of 21 countries bordering the Mediterranean – where fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts and olives are abundant.
It is unclear why this diet is specifically beneficial for women, and further sex-specific research would need to be done to guide clinical practice.
“Mechanisms explaining the gender-specific effect of the Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular disease and death remain unclear,” said study co-author Dr. Sarah Zaman. “Women-specific cardiovascular risk factors, including premature menopause, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes, or female-predominant risk factors, such as systemic lupus, may all independently increase cardiovascular disease risk.”
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the US. In 2020, it was the cause of about one in five female deaths.
Zaman continued, “It is possible that preventive measures, such as a Mediterranean diet, targeting inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk factors may have different effects in women than in men.”
A previous Harvard University study said the Mediterranean diet was one of four common healthy eating patterns that may help reduce the risk of premature death by up to 20%.