British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Mediterranean dietary pattern and mortality among young women: a cohort study in Sweden

Pagona Lagioua1a2 c1, Dimitrios Trichopoulosa1a2, Sven Sandina3, Areti Lagioua1a4, Lorelei Muccia2a5, Alicja Wolka6, Elisabete Elisabetea3a7 and Hans-Olov Adamia2a3

a1 Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, University of Athens Medical School, 75 M. Asias Street, Goudi, GR-115 27, Athens, Greece

a2 Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston MA 02115, USA

a3 Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, SE-17177, Stockholm, Sweden

a4 Faculty of Health Professions, Athens Technological Institute (TEI), 274 Thivon Avenue, Athens, Greece

a5 Channing Laboratory, Harvard Medical School, 181 Longwood Avenue, Boston MA 02115, USA

a6 Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Box 210, SE-17177, Stockholm, Sweden

a7 The Cancer Registry of Norway, Montebello, N-0310, Oslo, Norway


Studies of diet and health focus increasingly on dietary patterns. Although the traditional Mediterranean diet is perceived as being healthy, there is little information on its possible benefit to young people. We studied whether closer adherence to the traditional Mediterranean dietary pattern was associated with overall and cancer mortality in a cohort of 42237 young women, aged 30–49 years at enrolment, who were recruited in 1991–2 from the general population in the Uppsala Health Care Region, Sweden, and followed up, almost completely, for about 12 years. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was assessed by a 10-point score incorporating the characteristics of this diet. Among women less than 40 years old at enrolment – whose causes of death are mainly cancer with probable genetic influences, injuries or suicide – there was no association of the Mediterranean diet score with total or cancer mortality. Among women 40–49 years old at enrolment, a 2-point increase in the score was associated with considerable reductions in overall mortality (13%; 95% CI 1%, 23%; Pxs223C0·05) and cancer mortality (16%; 95% CI −1%, 29%; Pxs223C0·06). Few cardiovascular deaths occurred in this cohort of young women. The findings of the present study in a northern European population of young women indicate that closer adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern reduces mortality even among young persons.

(Received December 14 2005)

(Revised March 23 2006)

(Accepted April 01 2006)


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr Pagona Lagiou, fax +30 210 746 2080, email