Eating a diet rich in fish, vegetables and nuts could help lower the risk of stroke in women, researchers have said.
The Mediterranean diet has long been linked to positive health benefits such as weight loss and lower blood glucose levels. For these reasons, the diet has often been highlighted as beneficial for people with diabetes.
Now, a team from Scotland says there is evidence it can reduce the chance of females having a stroke.
Men did not reap as much of the same benefits from the diet, however. The researchers explain this could be because of men and women’s contrasting physiology.
The trial involved collecting data on more than 23,000 men and women, aged 40-77 years. They were all followed for 17 years, and their dietary habits were examined.
Those who ate a Mediterranean diet reduced their risk for stroke by 17%. But when they broke down the findings between the genders, they saw the female reduction risk dropped by 22%, while males saw a 6% drop.
Lead researcher Dr Phyo Myint, clinical chair of medicine at the University of Aberdeen School of Medicine in Scotland, said: “Simple changes in dietary habits may bring a substantial benefit regarding reducing stroke, which remains one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide.”
Explaining the differences between men and women, Dr Myint added: “It may be that certain components in the Mediterranean diet may influence risk of stroke in women more than in men.”
It is important to note that the study did not prove the Mediterranean diet lowered stroke risk, only that an association was made. However, many other studies have demonstrated benefits of a Mediterranean diet, which suggests that the diet is likely to be one of the best options.
Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Langone Medical Center said: “The Mediterranean eating style, which has great variations among several different cultures, is characterised by foods high in anti-inflammatory compounds, including fibre, vitamins, minerals and healthy plant compounds.”
Women with diabetes are deemed at greater risk of having a stroke than men owing in part to factors such as the oral contraceptive pill, hormone replacement therapy and various conditions during pregnancy like pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.
The researchers concluded: “Although the findings in our study were driven by the associations in women, they have implications for the general public and clinicians for prevention of stroke.”
The findings were published in the journal Stroke.