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No link between fat and stroke risk, Northwestern researcher finds

Northwestern University

Unlike its scientifically established relationship to heart disease, dietary fat does not seem to be associated with risk for stroke, according to an article in the Oct. 4 issue of the British Medical Journal.

Ka He, instructor in preventive medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health, followed almost 44,000 healthy middle-aged men for 14 years to examine the association between intake of total fat, specific types of fat and cholesterol and the risk for stroke. They assessed dietary intake by using questionnaires that included a comprehensive survey of diet, lifestyle and family history. After adjusting for age, smoking and other factors that could affect study results, He and co-researchers found no evidence that the amount or type of dietary fat affects the risk for developing stroke.

They also evaluated stroke risk according to consumption of selected foods rich in fat or cholesterol, including red meat, high-fat dairy products, nuts and eggs and found no significant link with stroke.

In 725 documented new cases of strokes during the follow-up among the men in the study, including 455 ischemic strokes, 125 hemorrhagic strokes and 145 strokes of unknown type, there was no association found between intakes of total fat, animal fat, vegetable fat, saturated fat, mono-, poly- or trans-unsaturated fat or cholesterol, He noted.

"Previous studies have shown that saturated fat intake is positively related to carotid artery wall thickness, a marker of atherosclerosis and a potential risk for stroke. Polyunsaturated fat intake is inversely associated with this marker," He said.

Although ischemic heart disease and stroke share many of the same risk factors, the association of blood cholesterol with stroke remains controversial, the authors said.

"Our study indicates that dietary fat may not be a strong predictor of stroke in men. Clearly, more research is needed," He said.

The study was conducted at Harvard. He recently joined the preventive medicine faculty at the Feinberg School.


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