A Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of heart disease in women by about 25%, study finds

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According to a new analysis of 16 studies, careful adherence to the Mediterranean diet can reduce a woman’s risk of heart disease and death by nearly 25%.

“This study adds to what is already known about the cardiovascular benefits of the Mediterranean diet, but also reiterates that it may be as beneficial for women as it is for men,” said lead author Sarah Zaman, associate professor at Westmead. University of Sydney Center for Applied Research via email.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women and men worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Coronary artery disease kills twice as many women in the UK as breast cancer, and one in five deaths among women in the United States in 2020 was from heart disease.

Few heart studies have looked specifically at women, Zaman said.

British nutritionist Victoria Taylor said: “It’s long been known that eating a Mediterranean diet is good for the heart, but it’s encouraging to see that the benefits hold when women are looked at separately from men.” Heart Foundation, in a statement. He did not participate in the study.

The analysis, published Wednesday in the journal Heart, pooled studies on the Mediterranean diet and separated data for women and men. Women were scored for consuming more healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seafood, and for consuming less red and processed meat, which is part of the Mediterranean diet.

Women who closely followed the Mediterranean diet had a 24% lower risk of heart disease and a 23% lower risk of premature death than women who barely followed the diet. There was also a reduction in the number of deaths from stroke, but this was not statistically significant, according to the study.

Dr. Roxana Mehran, a cardiologist who was not involved in the study, said: “I was very happy to see the data on women because these data were not presented or were not able to work in both women and men in previous studies.” Mehran, a professor of medicine, directs interventional cardiovascular research and clinical trials at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

The researchers ran the numbers on men and got the same results: “Men had a 22% lower risk of heart disease and a 23% lower risk of death,” Zaman said.

That’s not surprising, says Dr. David Katz, an expert in preventive and lifestyle medicine and nutrition who was not involved in the study.

“What we previously knew about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet was not gender specific,” he said, adding that the cardiovascular benefits of a high-quality diet should be the same regardless of gender.

“Accordingly, this was a ‘reconfirmation study’ showing that the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in men and women remained statistically robust only when women were considered as the primary group,” he said by email.

There were limitations — all 16 studies were observational, meaning they couldn’t show cause and effect, and they relied on self-reports of food intake, which inevitably affects memory recall, Taylor said.

The limitations “are acknowledged by the authors, who also suggest that their findings be interpreted with caution, but it also supports the need for more gender-specific research,” Taylor said.

“Regardless of your gender, a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, such as the Mediterranean-style diet, can help you reduce your risk of heart and circulatory disease and its risk factors, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. and high cholesterol,” he added.