Plant-based Fats May Lower Stroke Risk

We like to talk about overall health. So, while Glucocil is specifically designed to help people with blood sugar concerns, we address many health concerns in our blog. The Neuliven Health team aims to help with overall health. We know that our customers are interested in lots of areas of health, so we never limit ourselves to just speaking about blood sugar. That’s why, today, we’re talking about ways to promote heart health!

When we think about taking care of our hearts, many of us immediately jump to cutting fat from our diet. But that’s not always the best advice. Not all fat is created equal! We have long known the difference between saturated and unsaturated fat. But researchers are still learning about how fat from different foods impacts our bodies.

A new 27-year study with more than 117,000 participants found that people who ate high amounts of fat from animal fat have a higher risk of a stroke than average. Those fat sources included red meat, processed meat and non-dairy animal fat. People who ate high amounts of vegetable fat had a lower risk of suffering a stroke than average.

Our 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,” said Dr. Fenglei Wang, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

While many of us think cutting fat out of our diet is healthy, fat is essential for the body. It helps you absorb some vitamins, it’s a good source of energy. Monosaturated fat from nuts, olives, avocadoes and vegetable oils can be wonderful. Polyunsaturated fats, like omega-3 fatty acids, from foods like oily fish, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, pine nuts and corn and soybean oil are also excellent.    

During the study, there were 6,189 strokes in the 117,136 people being followed. They took dietary surveys. People who ate the most animal fat (excluding dairy fat) were 16 percent more likely to have a stroke than people who had the least. People who ate the most polyunsaturated fat had a 12 percent lower risk than those who ate the least. Dairy fat did not increase the risk of a stroke. This find makes a strong argument for cooking with sunflower oil, eating more oily fish and skipping meat more often.  

There were limitations to the study. All the data was self-reported, so people’s diets might have been different than what they reported. The researchers didn’t take other lifestyle differences into account — exercise habits, salt intake or tobacco use, for instance, weren’t tracked. Finally, 97 percent of the people in the study were white. So, even if these findings are correct, they might not be true universally. However, it does strengthen the body of evidence that red meat shouldn’t be our go-to form of protein.

If everyone could make small modifications such as reducing red and processed meat intake, the implication for public health will be huge,” said Dr. Wang.

There’s no need for perfection, but there is so much power in improving our health with our food choices. We can prevent the bulk of illnesses like stroke by changing what we’re eating,” said registered dietician Tracy Severson. “Even if you’re genetically predisposed to cardiovascular disease like stroke, having a healthy diet can bring your risk down to the same risk as someone who doesn’t have a genetic risk factor.”

Banner image: Engin Akyurt via Unsplash

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