How eating Mediterranean foods can reduce women's risk of stroke, but not men's

Sabrina Barr

The nutritional benefits of the Mediterranean diet have been explored extensively over the past few years, with some claiming that following the diet can reduce a person’s risk of developing heart disease.

However, the contrasting ways in which the diet can affect the overall wellbeing of men and women haven’t been investigated in as close detail, until now.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of East Anglia has found that women who follow a diet that consists predominantly of Mediterranean-style foods are less likely than men who follow the same diet to experience a stroke later on in life.

According to the findings published in the American Heart Association journal, women aged 40 or older can reduce their risk of stroke by more than a fifth by following a Mediterranean diet.

However, following the same diet may have no bearing on a man’s likelihood of experiencing the health condition.

Ailsa Welch, one of the authors of the study, explains that in order for women to decrease their chances of having a stroke by following the Mediterranean diet, they must follow the diet faithfully as opposed to simply eating various components of the diet separately.

So, what kind of foods should women be eating in order to lower their risk of experiencing a stroke?

The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the cuisines commonly eaten by inhabitants of Spain, Italy and Greece.

It comprises of a variety of fruits and vegetables, a lot of fish, a moderate amount of dairy products and a low amount of meat sourced from animals other than fish.

The specific foods that make up a Mediterranean diet can vary according to different cultures and ethnicities.

However, the defining components of the diet tend to remain the same across the board.

Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, provides a comprehensive insight into the Mediterranean diet and the emphasis that it places on the consumption of healthy fats.

“A typical Mediterranean diet includes lots of vegetables, fruits, beans, cereals and cereal products, for example wholegrain bread, pasta and brown rice,” she tells BBC Good Food.

“It also contains moderate amounts of fish, white meat and some dairy produce.

“It’s the combination of all these elements that seems to bring health benefits, but one of the key aspects is the inclusion of healthy fats.

“Olive oil, which is monounsaturated fat, is most commonly associated with the Mediterranean diet but polyunsaturated fats are also present in nuts, seeds and oily fish.”

A number of people have previously been under the impression that incorporating too many fats into your diet can be detrimental for your health in the long run.

However, eating the right kinds of fats in reasonable quantities can provide your body and brain with sufficient amounts of fuel.

The researchers who conducted the study at the University of East Anglia noted that the 23,232 participants were predominantly white, and therefore results may vary for different ethnicities.