Greater adherence to Mediterranean diet leads to benefits in study

Higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with a 23 percent reduction in all-cause mortality in women. The reduction was explained by differences in multiple risk factors.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on plant foods and healthy fats, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains and extra-virgin olive oil. The research, published in JAMA Network Open in May, was based on data from a study that followed 25,315 women, average age 55, for 25 years.

During the study period, the women completed health questionnaires every six months for the first year and annually thereafter. In addition to blood tests, the researchers used a 131-item food frequency questionnaire and assigned each participant a Mediterranean diet score based on their adherence to the diet and their consumption of vegetables (excluding potatoes), fruits, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and fish.

Points were also awarded for eating healthier fats, lower consumption of red and processed meat, and whether alcohol consumption was within five to fifteen grams per day (about one 150ml glass of wine, one 350ml beer, or 45ml spirits).

The researchers found that those who adhered most strictly to the foods in the Mediterranean diet had a 23 percent lower overall risk of death during the study period. Nearly 3,900 participants died during the study period, including 935 whose deaths were attributed to cardiovascular disease and 1,531 from cancer.

“It’s important to emphasize that the benefit was seen for both cancer and cardiovascular mortality, which are generally the leading causes of death in women,” said Samia Mora, the study’s lead author and director of the Center for Lipid Metabolomics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Because the study participants were primarily white people who did not have a Hispanic background, the researchers acknowledge that the findings may be limited.

This article is part of The Post’s “Big Number” series, which briefly examines the statistical aspect of health problems. Additional information and relevant research are available via the hyperlinks.

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