Red meat consumption increases risk of stroke in women

A woman shops for meat in the supermarketWomen who eat too much red or processed meat are increasing their chances of suffering a stroke, new research from Sweden suggests.

The 10-year study by scientists at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm kicked off in 1997 and looked at the dietary habits of 34,670 women aged 39 to 73, all of whom were free of cancer and heart disease at the beginning of the study.

Over the decade, 1,680 (four per cent) of them experienced a blockage in blood to the brain, triggering a stroke.

Women in the top 10 per cent for red-meat-eating (consuming more than 102g/3.6oz a day) were 42 per cent more likely to suffer a stroke than those who ate less than 25g/1oz of red meat a day.

The women in the study were split into five groups according to how much red or processed meat they ate.

Those in the top group – who consumed at least 86g/3oz per day, were found to be 22 per cent more likely to suffer a cerebral infarction than those in the bottom fifth (less than 12.1g/0.5oz).

The most common kind of stroke (78 per cent of those experienced by the study group), cerebral infarctions are caused by an arterial blockage that prevents blood reaching the brain.

Other types of stroke were caused by bleeding in the brain or unspecified causes. No link was found to other types of stroke.

Red and processed meats are already linked to cancer and high cholesterol and heart disease.

Overconsumption can also cause high blood pressure, which is also the primary cause of stroke. Red meat is high in sodium, which can cause high blood pressure, and also iron, which can accelerate the production of health-harming free radicals.

The study found that the risk of stroke was not increased in women who smoked or who had diabetes. Non-smokers and those without diabetes were 68 per cent more likely to suffer a cerebral infarction as a result of a diet high in red or processed meat.

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