Mediterranean diet lowers death risk in women by 20%

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Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital have shed new light on why the Mediterranean diet might significantly reduce the risk of death, particularly among American women.

Their findings, published in the journal JAMA, suggest that this diet could decrease all-cause mortality risk by 23%.

The study monitored over 25,000 initially healthy U.S. women for up to 25 years. Results showed that those who closely followed a Mediterranean diet experienced substantially lower risks of death from any cause, including cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and olive oil, with moderate consumption of fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs, and minimal intake of meats, sweets, and processed foods.

Samia Mora, MD, a cardiologist and director of the Center for Lipid Metabolomics at the Brigham, highlighted the potential life-extending benefits of the diet.

“For women looking to live longer, our study suggests that a Mediterranean dietary pattern could lead to a roughly 25% reduction in the risk of death over more than two decades,” said Dr. Mora.

The study explored various biological mechanisms to understand how the diet impacts health. Researchers evaluated around 40 different biomarkers related to metabolism, inflammation, insulin resistance, and more.

They discovered that changes in these biomarkers, particularly those related to metabolism and inflammation, could explain the health benefits observed.

Lead researcher Shafqat Ahmad, Ph.D., emphasized the public health implications of their findings.

“Even modest changes in established risk factors for metabolic diseases can yield substantial benefits. This supports the potential of promoting healthier eating habits to reduce mortality risk,” Ahmad noted.

However, the study acknowledges limitations, including its focus on a specific demographic—middle-aged and older, well-educated female health professionals, primarily non-Hispanic white. This demographic focus might affect the generalizability of the findings.

Additionally, the data was collected through food-frequency questionnaires and other self-reported measures, which can introduce biases.

Despite these limitations, the study’s large scale and lengthy follow-up period strengthen its conclusions. The researchers also cautioned that as the Mediterranean diet becomes more popular worldwide, deviations from its traditional form could alter its effectiveness.

Dr. Mora concluded by advocating for public health policies that promote the healthful attributes of the Mediterranean diet and discourage less beneficial adaptations.

The team’s comprehensive approach provides valuable insights into the diet’s potential to enhance longevity and combat major diseases, encouraging further research and policy support for dietary interventions.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk, and Vitamin K2 could help reduce heart disease risk.

For more information about health, please see recent studies that olive oil may help you live longer, and Vitamin C linked to lower risk of heart failure.

The research findings can be found in JAMA Network Open.

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