- Study reveals red meat is linked to a risk of suffering ischemic stroke
- People who ate 93g a day were 47% more likely to suffer the condition
- Caused by a blockage in the blood vessels which supply the brain
- Researchers noted it was only red meat that was linked to high stroke risk
The more red meat a person indulges in, the more likely they are to suffer a life-threatening stroke, experts have warned.
The protein increases the chance a person will experience a blockage in the blood vessels that supply the brain – known as an ischemic stroke.
Researchers in Germany found those individuals who ate the most red meat had a 47 per cent higher risk of the condition, compared with those who ate the smallest quantities.
Dr Bernhard Haring at the University of Wurzburg in Germany, offered some reassurance.
He said: ‘It’s ok to eat red meat – preferably lean red meat – as long as you limit the amount.’
People who ate the most red meat had a 47 per cent higher chance of suffering an ischemic stroke – the most common form of the condition – than those who ate the smallest quantities of red meat, bacon and sausages, researchers at the University of Wurzburg discovered
Protein from poultry, seafood or vegetable sources like nuts and legumes wasn’t associated with any added risk.
Researchers analysed data on around 11,000 middle-aged people who didn’t have other risk factors for strokes such as diabetes or heart disease, and followed half of them for 23 years.
Past studies have raised questions over links between a high-protein diet and strokes.
But, Dr Haring said this new piece of research, suggests red meat in particular may pose a danger.
To assess the link between protein and stroke risk, Dr Haring and his colleagues reviewed data from diet questionnaires completed by people living in the US, aged 45 to 64, starting in 1987.
They followed them through until 2011, to see how many people had suffered a stroke.
The study participants were divided into five groups, based on how much protein and what type they consumed.
For instance, the bottom-fifth averaged around 49g of protein a day, representing less than 13 per cent of total calories.
Meanwhile, the top-fifth averaged 93g of protein a day, equating to 23 per cent of total calories.
‘This study really tells us that what we eat matters for our future cardiovascular health
Dr Jennifer Dearborn-Tomazos, Yale University
Compared to participants with high protein consumption, those who ate less protein on average at the start of the study were more likely to be black, current smokers and less likely to have high school diplomas or a regular exercise routine.
The people who ate less protein were also less likely to be obese or take cholesterol-lowering medications.
There were no major differences in age gender, or total calories consumed among participants who ate different amounts of protein.
During a median follow-up of 22.7 years, there were 699 strokes among 11,601 participants.
The highest intake of processed meats like bacon, sausage and jerky was linked to a 24 per cent higher risk of strokes
Meanwhile the highest consumption of red meat was tied to a 41 per cent increased risk, compared to people in the bottom-fifth for consumption of those items.
When the researchers looked just at men, the highest consumers of red and processed meats had a 62 per cent higher stroke risk than men who ate the least.
An ischemic stroke is triggered by a blockage in the blood vessels that supply the brain, illustrated
Eating more eggs was linked to a 41 per cent greater risk of hemorrhagic strokes – a less common type that is caused by a ruptured blood vessel in the brain.
But only red meats were tied to ischemic strokes, the most common kind.
One limitation of the study is that researchers only had data on protein intake at two points in time, which the authors acknowledge might fail to account for changes in eating habits over the years.
Because the study was based on observation only and didn’t randomly assign some people to eat red meat while others abstained, it isn’t possible to determine how diet changes might help reduce the risk of future strokes, noted Dr Jennifer Dearborn-Tomazos, a neurology researcher at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.
It’s possible, for example, that people who eat a lot of red meat also do other things that increase the risk of strokes, like not eating enough vegetables, Dr Dearborn-Tomazos, who wasn’t involved in the study,told Reuters.
Even so, the study findings linking red meat to stroke risk after accounting for how much fat, carbohydrates and fiber people consumed supports traditionally held beliefs that red meat and saturated fats may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, she said.
‘This study really tells us that what we eat matters for our future cardiovascular health,’ Dr Dearborn-Tomazos said.