Following a Mediterranean diet could reduce a woman’s risk of heart disease by 24%, a new study has found.
The diet, rich in nuts, seafood, whole grains and vegetables, has been linked to a number of health benefits, with a recent separate study suggesting that people who follow the diet have a reduced risk of developing dementia in later life.
The latest study, published in the journal Heart, saw researchers pool all previous studies on women adhering to Mediterranean diets, cardiovascular disease and their risk of dying during the follow-up period.
The team, led by academics from the University of Sydney in Australia, found that women who had a “high adherence” to a Mediterranean diet were 24% less likely to have cardiovascular disease.
They were also 23% less likely to die from any cause during the follow-up period.
“We found that a Mediterranean diet was beneficial in women, with a 24% lower risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease) and a 23% lower risk of total mortality,” the authors wrote.
Commenting on the study, Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “It’s long been known that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is good for your heart, but it’s encouraging to see this research suggest that when we look at women separately from men, the benefits remain.
“Heart disease is often seen as a male problem but coronary heart disease kills more than twice as many women as breast cancer in the UK each year.
“Sex-specific research like this is vital for reducing the heart disease gender gap and improving women’s care.
“Whatever your gender, a healthy lifestyle which includes a balanced diet like the Mediterranean-style diet can help you to lower your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases and the risk factors for them, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
“It’s easy to do – make sure you are eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, beans, lentils, wholegrains, fish, nuts and seeds, along with some low-fat dairy and fat from unsaturated sources like olive oil. It’s also important to eat less processed meat, salt and sweet treats.”
In a separate study, researchers, led by experts at Newcastle University, found that people who followed a strict Mediterranean diet had a 23% lower risk of developing dementia compared to those who had a low adherence score.
The findings published in the journal BMC Medicine were based on data from more than 60,000 individuals from the UK Biobank – an online database of medical and lifestyle records of more than half a million Britons.