In a new study from Harvard, researchers found eating higher total amounts of red meat, processed red meat and non-dairy animal fat increased the risk of stroke, while consuming more vegetable fat or polyunsaturated fat lowered it.
The findings indicate the type of fat and different food sources of fat are more important than the total amount of dietary fat in the prevention of cardiovascular disease including stroke.
In the study, the team analyzed 27 years of follow-up from 117,136 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study (1984-2016) and Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2016).
Participants were age 50 years on average, 63% were women, and all were free of heart disease and cancer at enrollment.
In the study, total red meat included beef, pork or lamb as a main dish, in sandwiches or mixed dishes, and processed red meats. Processed red meats included bacon, sausage, bologna, hot dogs, salami and other processed meats.
The team found participants who ate the most non-dairy animal fat intake were 16% more likely to experience a stroke than those who ate the least (the lowest quintile).
Dairy fat in products, such as cheese, butter, milk, ice cream and cream was not linked to a higher risk of stroke.
Participants who ate the most vegetable fat and the most polyunsaturated fat were 12% less likely to experience a stroke compared to those who ate the least.
Those consuming one more serving of total red meat every day had an 8% higher risk of stroke, and those consuming one more serving of processed red meat had a 12% higher risk of stroke.
Based on the findings, researchers 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.
They say that a look at subtypes of fat intake, such as separating saturated fat consumed from vegetable, dairy or non-dairy animal sources, would be useful in further understanding the association between fat intake and stroke risk.
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The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2021. One author of the study is Fenglei Wang, Ph.D.
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