Background: Some intervention trials have reported a reduction in systemic inflammation with the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) while others have observed no effect. Despite the fact that sex differences have been highlighted in the inflammatory regulation, it is still not known whether MedDiet exerts similar effects on systemic inflammation in men and women. The aim of this study was therefore to investigate sex differences in the effects of the MedDiet on high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP).
Findings: Participants were 35 men and 27 premenopausal women (24-53 years) presenting a slightly deteriorated lipid profile. All foods were provided to participants during a 4-week isocaloric MedDiet. At baseline, women had higher hs-CRP concentrations than men (P = 0.03). No sex difference was observed in hs-CRP response to the MedDiet (P for sex-by-time interaction = 0.36), with both men and women experiencing no change (respectively P = 0.62 and P > 0.99). When subgroups were formed according to hs-CRP concentration before the MedDiet phase, men with elevated baseline values (≥2 mg/l) experienced a reduction in hs-CRP over time with the MedDiet (-26.5 %) while an increase was observed in men with lower baseline values (+96.6 %; P for group-by-time interaction = 0.02). This pattern of change was not observed in women.
Conclusions: Results from this controlled feeding study suggest that men and women have similar effects from the MedDiet on systemic inflammation. The individual's overall inflammatory status seems to influence these effects, but only in men.
Trial registration: This clinical trial was registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01293344 .