Meat free diet could cut risk of stroke

Taiwanese research suggests vegetarian diet could guard against world’s second biggest killer

A colourful selection of heart shaped bowls filled with fruit, vegetables and pulses.

If you want to cut your chance of having a stroke, then it’s high time you cut out the meat. That’s the conclusion of new research that shows a dietary shift for the greener is just the ticket for decreasing your risk of this debilitating and potentially fatal ailment, which affects one Briton every five minutes.

The long-term study, conducted in Taiwan, looked at data generated by two Buddhist communities, one of more than 5,000 people, the other of more than 8,000, for six and nine years respectively. The communities encourage meat free eating and about a third of their members were vegetarian.

The data revealed that the meat free eaters in the first group had a 74 per cent lower risk of ischemic stroke, while those in the second had a 48 per cent lower risk of having a stroke overall, a 60 lower risk of ischemic stroke and a 65 lower risk of haemorrhagic stroke.

Ischemic stroke is triggered when a blood clot or fat blockage forms in an artery or small vessel that supplies blood to the brain, starving it of oxygen and nutrients (arterial thrombosis) or when a blood clot travels from elsewhere in the body to the brain (cerebral embolism). Haemorrhagic stroke is when a blood vessel bursts and bleeds into the brain, cutting off oxygen and increasing pressure on the brain.

Stroke is the fourth most common cause of death in the UK, and the second worldwide. There are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK every year – one every five minutes. Globally it happens every 2 seconds.

“Our study found that a vegetarian diet was beneficial and reduced the risk of ischemic stroke even after adjusting for known risk factors like blood pressure, blood glucose levels and fats in the blood,” said Dr Chin-Lon Lin of Taiwan’s Tzu Chi University.

“This could mean that perhaps there is some other protective mechanism that may protecting those who eat a vegetarian diet from stroke,” he added. As well as eating fresh fruit, vegetables and legumes, other factors could include having a healthier and more active lifestyle overall. Plant-based diets also tend to be associated with lower blood pressure, and hypertension is a major risk factor for stroke.

Diets high in antioxidants have been found to be lower women’s chances of having a stroke, while red meat increases it. Studies have also made the connection between unhealthy diets and climate change, and pointed out that cutting back on the amount of meat we eat leads to a better life for us and the planet – a win-win for all concerned.

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