Following a Mediterranean-style diet may reduce stroke risk in women over 40 but not in men – according to new research.
A new report from the University of East Anglia (UEA) reveals that a diet high in fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts and beans, and lower in meat and dairy, reduces stroke risk among Caucasian adults who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
The study is one of the largest and longest-running efforts to evaluate the potential benefits of the Mediterranean-style diet in lowering the risk of stroke.
It shows that the diet may be especially beneficial in women over 40 regardless of menopausal status or hormone replacement therapy.
Over a 17-year period, researchers examined the diets of more than 23,000 participants and compared stroke risk among four groups ranked highest to lowest by how closely they adhered to a Mediterranean style diet.
The study involved 23,232 Caucasian adults aged between 40 and 77.
In participants who most closely followed a Mediterranean-style diet, the reduced onset of stroke was:
- 17 per cent in all adults;
- 22 per cent in women; and
- 6 per cent in men (which researchers said could have been due to chance).
Lead researcher Prof Ailsa Welch, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “This research shows us that following a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fish, fruits and nuts, vegetables and beans, and lower in meat and dairy, may reduce stroke risk for women over 40.
“But a healthy, balanced diet is important for everyone both young and old,” she added.
“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.
“We are also aware that different sub-types of stroke may differ between genders. Our study was too small to test for this, but both possibilities deserve further study in the future.”
Researchers used seven-day diet diaries, which had not been done before in such a large population.
Seven-day diaries are more precise than food-frequency questionnaires and participants write down everything they eat and drink over the period of a week.
Have you tried the Mediterranean diet? Would you be more likely to reduce your meat and dairy intake if it was more likely to improve your quality of life in retirement?