Study links particular kind of fat, not amount, to higher stroke risk

A new study finds that eating more animal fat is linked to a higher risk of stroke but the risk is significantly reduced if people get their fat from vegetable sources, even in larger amounts, NBC News reported on Monday.

People who consumed mostly vegetable and polyunsaturated fats, such olive oil, were 12 percent less likely to have an ischemic stroke compared with those who ate a minimum amount of vegetable fats.

Those who consumed more than one serving of total red meat every day reportedly had an 8 percent higher risk of stroke, while those who consumed more than one serving of processed red meat had a 12 percent higher risk.

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Participants who ate more amounts of animal fats — excluding dairy fat — were 16 percent more likely to have a stroke than those who ate the least amount of animal fat. 

The study found that fat from dairy is not connected with increased stroke risk.

"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," Fenglei Wang, lead author of the study at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told NBC.

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

The research is reportedly set to be presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2021 later this month.

The study was conducted from 27 years of data collected from 117,000 health care professionals.

The Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, two of the country's longest running nutritional studies, contributed to the research. 

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the U.S. someone dies from a stroke every four minutes with more than 795,000 people in the country having a stroke every year. The CDC says that about 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked.