Middle-aged women who follow a Mediterranean-style diet — rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, potatoes, olive oil, seeds, fish, low saturated fat, dairy products and red meat — may have a reduced risk of stroke, say researchers. The study shows that the diet may be especially protective in women over the age of 40, regardless of menopausal status or hormone replacement therapy.
The diet reduced the onset of stroke by 17% in all adults, but women saw greater reduction of 22%, whereas the benefit was seen only in 6% men. “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,” said lead researcher Ailsa Welch, Professor at the UK’s University of East Anglia.
For the study, detailed in the journal Stroke, the team 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 for over a 17-year period.
There was also a 13% overall reduced risk of stroke in participants already at high risk of cardiovascular disease across all four groups of the Mediterranean diet scores. However, this was driven mainly by the associations in women who showed a 20% reduced stroke risk.
“Our findings provide clinicians and the public with information regarding the potential benefit of eating a Mediterranean-style diet for stroke prevention, regardless of cardiovascular risk,” said co-author Phyo Myint, Professor from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.