The study – published in PLOS One– investigated the eating habits of over 20,000 residents of the Swedish city of Malmö, with a focus on the risk of cardiovascular disease. The research team, led by Peter Wallström, of Lund University, Sweden, analysed the importance of 13 different nutritional variables, including fibre, fat, protein, and carbohydrate intake.
"Women who ate a diet high in fibre had an almost 25 per cent lower risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease compared with women who ate a low-fibre diet,” said Wallström, who noted that the effect was less pronounced in men.
However, he commented that the exact reason for the difference between the sexes is unclear, but said the results did ‘confirm’ that a high-fibre diet does at least protect men from stroke.
"The difference in the results for men and women shows that we need to pay more attention to gender when we conduct research on diet", said Wallström.
However, the lead researcher said the results “should be interpreted with a certain amount of caution,” noting that other studies have shown that limiting fat and sugar intake are of primary importance for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The team assessed data from 8,139 male and 12,535 female participants aged between 44 and 73 years of age, from the Swedish population-based Malmö Diet and Cancer cohort. All participants were without history of CVD and diabetes mellitus, and had reported stable dietary habits in the study questionnaire.
They identified 1,089 male and 687 female ischemic cardiovascular disease over a 13.5 year follow up period.
“High fiber intakes were associated with lower incidence rates of iCVD in women and of ischemic stroke in men,” said the researchers.
They added that further analysis revealed statistically significant interactions between intake of fiber and saturated fat; “these interactions also differed between men and women,” they said.
Source: PLoS ONE
Volume 7, Issue 2, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031637
“Dietary Fiber and Saturated Fat Intake Associations with Cardiovascular Disease Differ by Sex in the Malmö Diet and Cancer Cohort: A Prospective Study.”
Authors: Wallström P, Sonestedt E, Hlebowicz J, Ericson U, Drake I, et al