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Western Dietary Pattern Derived by Multiple Statistical Methods Is Prospectively Associated with Subclinical Carotid Atherosclerosis in Midlife Women

Wang D1Karvonen-Gutierrez CA1Jackson EA2Elliott MR3,4Appelhans BM5,6Barinas-Mitchell E7Bielak LF1Huang MH8Baylin A1,9.

J Nutr. 2019 Nov 5. pii: nxz270. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz270. [Epub ahead of print]




The menopause has adverse effects on cardiometabolic profiles that are linked to an increased risk of atherosclerosis in women. A healthy diet during the menopausal transition may counteract the menopause-induced atherosclerotic risk.


This prospective cohort study aimed to examine the associations between empirically derived dietary patterns and subclinical carotid atherosclerosis in midlife women.


A total of 1246 midlife women (average age at baseline: 46.3 y) from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation who completed dietary assessments and had a carotid ultrasound scan were included. Dietary data were collected at 3 time points, during 1996-1997, 2001-2003, and 2005-2007. Measures of carotid atherosclerosis included common carotid artery intima-media thickness (CCA-IMT), adventitial diameter (AD), and carotid plaque index collected during 2009-2013. Three statistical methods, including principal component analysis (PCA), reduced rank regression (RRR), and partial least squares regression (PLS), were used to identify dietary patterns.


A Western dietary pattern was identified from each method and a Prudent dietary pattern from PCA. High adherence to the Western pattern was associated with higher CCA-IMT. Women in the fourth quartile of the Western pattern identified by PCA, RRR, and PLS had 0.042 mm (95% CI: 0.011, 0.073), 0.033 mm (95% CI: 0.0086, 0.057), and 0.049 mm (95% CI: 0.025, 0.074), respectively, larger CCA-IMT than women in the first quartile; these differences correspond to 30%, 24%, and 35% of the sample SD, respectively. The Prudent pattern was not significantly associated with CCA-IMT. No significant associations were found between the identified dietary patterns and AD or carotid plaque.


The positive association between the Western diet and CCA-IMT was robust under different dietary pattern derivation methods. The adoption of a diet low in red meat, processed meat, deep-fried products, and sugar-sweetened beverages among midlife women is associated with a lower future risk of atherosclerosis.