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Eating This Kind of Fat May Increase Your Stroke Risk

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Eating one type of fat may increase your risk of stroke, while consuming a different type may keep you safer, according to new research.

The findings of a 27-year study of more than 117,000 health care professionals — which will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2021 — reveal that eating animal fat can boost your risk of stroke.

Study participants who were in the highest quintile in terms of non-dairy animal fat intake were 16% more likely to experience a stroke than those who were in the lowest quintile.

On the other hand, eating vegetable fat appears to protect against stroke. Participants who ate the most vegetable fat and the most polyunsaturated fat had a risk of stroke that was 12% lower than those who ate the least amount of those types of fat.

In a press release, Fenglei Wang, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in the department of nutrition at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, says the study findings suggest that the types and different sources of fat in your diet are more important than how much fat you eat when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease, including stroke.

He adds:

“Based on our findings, we recommend for the general public to reduce consumption of red and processed meat, minimize fatty parts of unprocessed meat if consumed, and replace lard or tallow (beef fat) with non-tropical vegetable oils such as olive oil, corn or soybean oils in cooking in order to lower their stroke risk.”

Other findings in the study include:

  • Eating an additional serving of total red meat every day creates an 8% higher risk of stroke. Consuming one more serving of processed red meat boosts the risk of stroke 12% higher.
  • There was no elevated risk of stroke from eating dairy fat in products such as cheese, butter, milk, ice cream and cream.

The researchers based their findings on an analysis of 27 years of follow-up from more than 117,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study (1984-2016) and Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2016). These studies are among the largest ever to look at risk factors for various chronic diseases.

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