Following the Mediterranean Diet May Help Women Live Longer

In a study involving over 25,000 female participants, researchers found that those who adhered more strictly to the Mediterranean diet were nearly 25% less likely to die from all causes, cancer, or heart disease.

The Mediterranean diet, which includes seafood, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, is well-known for its beneficial effects on health and wellbeing. Research suggests that following this diet plan can reduce the risk of heart disease, metabolic diseases, and cancer.

Scientists believe that most of these health benefits are due to the diet's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as its potential to help manage weight and prevent diabetes.

Now, a new study suggests that this diet inspired by the cuisines of regions around the Mediterranean Sea may help women reduce the chance of dying from cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and other causes.

Food choices impact mortality risks

The research, published on May 31 in JAMA Network Open, examined the food intake and biomarkers of 25,315 female healthcare professionals in the United States involved in the Women's Health Study from April 1993 to January 1996.

The researchers collected baseline data on 33 blood biomarkers, including lipoprotein, inflammation, insulin resistance, and metabolism measurements. They also gathered dietary information from food-frequency questionnaires and calculated the participants' Mediterranean diet scores, ranging from zero to nine, with nine reflecting the highest adherence.

During a 25-year follow-up, the scientists tracked health outcomes and deaths among the participants.

After analyzing the data, the team found that higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a 23% reduced risk of all-cause mortality.

Moreover, a higher Mediterranean diet score was linked with lower risks of death from heart disease and cancer, though the association was stronger for cancer than cardiovascular mortality.

After additional adjustments for factors that could influence the results, such as smoking status, physical activity, and alcohol intake, the risk reductions remained significant for all-cause mortality.

The study's authors note that the diet's impact on cardiometabolic risk factors, including biomarkers related to small molecule metabolites, inflammation, triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, insulin resistance, and body mass index, contributed the most towards lowering mortality risks.

Should women switch to a Mediterranean Diet?

While the research results show that women might want to consider adopting a Mediterranean diet to help lower their risk of death from several health conditions, the study had some limitations.

Woman eating tasty baba ghanoush
Image by Pixel-Shot via Shutterstock

For example, the participants were mostly older, well-educated, and predominantly non-Hispanic white adults. Therefore, the results might be different in other groups. In addition, the team assessed adherence to the Mediterranean diet via self-reported food frequency questionnaires, so some foods could have been misclassified.

Still, the researchers analyzed thousands of participants and followed them for two and a half decades, which strengthened the validity of the findings.

Moreover, the results align with data from other studies, including one 2019 meta-analysis that analyzed 883,878 participants and found that higher Mediterranean diet adherence lowered the risk of dying from heart disease by 21%.

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