Greater adherence to Mediterranean diet linked to benefits in study

Farfalle with lemony arugula and pistachio sauce. (MUST CREDIT: Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Gina Nistico for The Washington Post)

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-based 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 of 55, for 25 years.

During the study period, the women completed health questionnaires every six months for the first year and yearly after that. In addition to blood testing, the researchers used a 131-question 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 given for eating healthier fats, lower consumption of red and processed meat, and whether alcohol intake fell within five to 15 grams per day (roughly one five-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer or 1.5 ounces of liquor).

Cava-Style Salad With Spicy Feta. MUST CREDIT: Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post

The researchers found that those who adhered most closely to the foods on the Mediterranean diet experienced a 23 percent lower overall mortality risk 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 the top causes of death in general in women,” said Samia Mora, the study’s senior author and the director of the Center for Lipid Metabolomics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Because the participants in the study were primarily non-Hispanic White people, the researchers acknowledge the findings may be limited.



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