12 Oct Mediterranean diet reduces stroke risk for women over forty
The only thing it hasn’t done yet is cure cancer. Give it time, though,
I’m sure it’ll manage that too, eventually.
In the largest study of its type, scientists conclude that adhering to the Mediterranean diet might
reduce the risk of stroke. The benefits are particularly pronounced only in evidence for women
In recent years, the diet has grown in popularity, and a body of research has now developed to
support many of the varied health claims.
Potential health benefits include extending lifespan, minimizing diabetes risk, reducing body
mass index (BMI), and slowing cognitive decline.
Studying the impact of dietary choices on a population is notoriously challenging, but the
amount of evidence supporting the benefits of the Mediterranean diet is close to overwhelming.
Recently, the Universities of East Anglia, Aberdeen, and Cambridge — all in the United
Kingdom — joined forces to discover whether everyone's favorite diet might also reduce the risk
of stroke (editor’s note- it tastes great too. Ever had fried lamb? Yes, the Mediterranean diet
consists of more oil than you need to lubricate a car- and it’s still incredibly healthy. And it
includes plenty of meat and dairy, just ask actual people who live in the region). Earlier this
week, their findings were published in the journal Stroke.
In all, the study used information from 23,232 white people, aged 40–77, over a 17-year period.
The data were taken from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer study, a project
initially set up to investigate "the connection between diet, lifestyle factors, and cancer."
To gauge the participants' diets, the scientists asked them to use 7-day diaries; everything that
they consumed was noted down for a 1-week period. This method is more reliable than the often-
used food-frequency questionnaires, which ask participants how frequently they tend to eat
The authors say that this is the first time that 7-day diaries have been used on such a large group
Next, they assessed how closely each participant followed the Mediterranean diet and sorted
them into four groups depending on how closely they adhered to it.
The team concluded that a Mediterranean-style diet reduced the risk of stroke by 17 percent.
When they split the data into men and women, the effect was much more pronounced in women;
those who followed the diet most closely had a 22 percent reduction in stroke risk. However,
among men, there was only a 6 percent reduction, which was not statistically significant.
"It is unclear why we found differences between women and men, but it could be that
components of the diet may influence men differently than women” says lead study author Ailsa
A. Welch, Ph.D.
There are other potential variables that might help explain the sex differences in stroke risk.
Welch explains, "We are also aware that different subtypes of stroke may differ between
genders. Our study was too small to test for this, but both possibilities deserve further study in
When looking at people already at risk of cardiovascular disease, the data revealed that, across
all four groups of Mediterranean diet scores, there was a 13 percent reduction in stroke risk.
This effect was, again, predominant among women, who saw a 20 percent reduction in risk.
The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet appear to know no bounds. However, it is
important to note that this is an observational study, and, therefore, cannot prove cause and
effect. More studies will be sure to follow.