In a new study, researchers have found that following a Mediterranean diet can significantly reduce a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease and death by nearly 25%.
The findings are the first of their kind and suggest that more sex-specific research is needed to guide clinical practice in heart health.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death in women worldwide.
While a healthy diet is an essential aspect of prevention, most clinical trials have included few women, and current guidelines on reducing heart disease risk do not differentiate by sex.
To address this, the researchers reviewed studies that looked at the impact of a Mediterranean diet on women’s cardiovascular health and risk of death.
The Mediterranean diet is characterized by whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, and extra virgin olive oil, with moderate consumption of fish and low to moderate consumption of wine, red/processed meats, dairy products, animal fat, and processed foods.
The analysis included 16 studies carried out in the US and Europe involving over 700,000 women aged 18 and above.
The results showed that adhering closely to a Mediterranean diet was associated with a 24% lower risk of heart disease and a 23% lower risk of death from any cause in women.
The study found that the risk of coronary heart disease was 25% lower, and the risk of stroke was also lower, though not strong.
The researchers suggested several limitations to their findings, including that all studies analyzed were observational and relied on self-reported food frequency questionnaires.
However, the Mediterranean diet’s antioxidant and gut microbiome effects on inflammation and cardiovascular risk factors could explain the observed associations.
The researchers suggested that the various components of the Mediterranean diet, such as polyphenols, nitrates, omega-3 fatty acids, increased fiber intake, and reduced glycemic load, may all contribute to a better heart risk profile.
However, the mechanisms explaining the sex-specific effect of the Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular disease and death remain unclear.
The researchers noted that more sex-specific research is needed to address this gap in knowledge and reinforce the need for preventative measures, such as a Mediterranean diet, to target inflammation and heart disease risk factors.
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The study was conducted by Anushriya Pant et al and published in the journal Heart.
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