Mediterranean Diet Cuts Women's Risk of Early Death by 23%

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Key Takeaways

  • The Mediterranean diet scores again, with a new study finding it cut women's odds for an early death by nearly a quarter

  • Reductions in deaths linked to cancer or heart disease were also seen

  • Big changes in metabolic and inflammatory factors may drive the effect

FRIDAY, May 31, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Experts have long extolled the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and a new study adds to that evidence, finding it cuts the odds for an early death in women by 23%.

“For women who want to live longer, our study says watch your diet!" said study senior author Dr. Samia Mora, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

"The good news is that following a Mediterranean dietary pattern could result in about one quarter reduction in risk of death over more than 25 years with benefit for both cancer and cardiovascular mortality, the top causes of death in women [and men] in the US and globally,” said Mora, a cardiologist and director of the Center for Lipid Metabolomics at the hospital.

The findings were published May 31 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

The Mediterranean diet has long ranked high on nutritionists' healthiest-diets list.

It relies heavily on plants (nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes) and its main source of fat is olive oil.

People on the diet eat moderate amounts of fish, poultry, dairy, eggs and alcohol, and tend to avoid red meat, sugary fare and processed foods.

The new study tracked health outcomes for more than 25 years among a group of more than 25,000 participants in the ongoing Women's Health Study.

All of the women in the study were deemed to be healthy when they enrolled.

Besides finding that risks of dying within the study period fell by almost a quarter for women closely following the Mediterranean diet, the study also found reductions in deaths linked to heart disease or cancer.

Compared to women who hadn't followed the diet, those who most closely matched the Mediterranean regimen had a 17% lower risk of dying from heart disease and a 20% lower odds of a fatal cancer, the Boston team found.

So how does this diet work its magic? The researchers did a deep dive into metabolic factors and other issues that might be driving the effect.

According to authors, healthy changes in biomarkers of metabolism, inflammation, insulin resistance and more were all observed among women who adopted the Mediterranean diet.

“Our research provides significant public health insight: even modest changes in established risk factors for metabolic diseases -- particularly those linked to small molecule metabolites, inflammation, triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, obesity and insulin resistance -- can yield substantial long-term benefits from following a Mediterranean diet," study lead author Shafqat Ahmad said in a hospital news release.

"This finding underscores the potential of encouraging healthier dietary habits to reduce the overall risk of mortality,” said Ahmad. He's an associate professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University Sweden and a researcher in the Center for Lipid Metabolomics and the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham.

More information

There's more on the Mediterranean diet's effect on health at the American Heart Association.

SOURCE: Brigham and Women’s Hospital, news release, May 31, 2024

What This Means For You

Want to live healthier for longer? There's more evidence that the Mediterranean diet can help you do just that.

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