Public Release: 

Postmenopausal women at greater risk of stroke from high trans fat intake

Aspirin use may moderate harmful effects of trans fat consumption


New research shows an increased risk of ischemic stroke in postmenopausal women who consume higher amounts of trans fatty acids, commonly found in baked goods, fried foods, and packaged products. Study findings now available in Annals of Neurology, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, suggest aspirin use may moderate the stroke risk caused by a diet high in trans fats.

Ischemic stroke is a result of a blockage in an artery leading to the brain. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 795,000 people have a new or recurrent stroke in the U.S. each year. Reports from the AHA indicate that stroke is the fourth cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 137,000 Americans each year with 60% of those deaths in women. Previous research suggests that increased incidence of cardiovascular disease--one of the risk factors for stroke--is associated with trans fat consumption. However, in other prior studies no significant association was found between dietary fat intake and stroke.

In the largest study of stroke in postmenopausal women to date, Dr. Ka He and colleagues analyzed data from the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study (WHI-OS)--a prospective cohort study of 87,025 women between the ages 50 and 79 who are generally in good health. At the time of enrollment participants were given a self-administered food frequency questionnaire and again three years later to assess their diet. The questionnaire asked about frequency of intake and portion size for 122 goods and food groups during a 3-month period and included questions related to fat consumption from meat, dairy, cooking, and reduced fat food items.

Results show 1,049 incident cases of ischemic stroke over 663,041 person-years of follow-up. Women who had the highest trans fat intake (6.1 grams/day) had a 39% greater incidence of stroke compared to those who consumed less (2.2 grams/day). Researchers found no significant associations between total fat, other types of fat, or dietary cholesterol. Aspirin use was shown to reduce the association between trans fat intake and stroke.

Additionally, researchers determined that of the ischemic stroke cases, there were 101 atherotherombotic, 234 cardioembolic and 269 lacunar infarctions, with another 445 unspecified cases that were not included in the subtype analysis. After adjusting for clinical, lifestyle and dietary factors results showed trans fat intake was associated with a higher risk of lacunar infarction.

"Our findings confirm that postmenopausal women with higher trans fat intake had an elevated risk of ischemic stroke, but aspirin use may reduce the adverse effects," concludes Dr. He. "We recommend following a diet low in trans fat and adding an aspirin regimen to help women reduce their risk of stroke, specifically following the onset of menopause."


The WHI program is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The study by Dr. He and colleagues was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

This study is published in Annals of Neurology. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact

Full citation: Trans Fat Intake, Aspirin, and Ischemic Stroke Among Postmenopausal Women." Sirin Yaemsiri, Souvik Sen, Lesley Tinker, Wayne Rosamond, Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller. Annals of Neurology; Published Online: March 1, 2012 (DOI:10.1002/ana.23555).

URL Upon publication:

Author Contact: To arrange an interview with Dr. He, please contact Ramona Dubose with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at

About the Journal

Annals of Neurology, the official journal of the American Neurological Association and the Child Neurology Society, publishes articles of broad interest with potential for high impact in understanding the mechanisms and treatment of diseases of the human nervous system. All areas of clinical and basic neuroscience, including new technologies, cellular and molecular neurobiology, population sciences, and studies of behavior, addiction, and psychiatric diseases are of interest to the journal.

About Wiley-Blackwell:

Wiley-Blackwell is the international scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly publishing business of John Wiley & Sons, with strengths in every major academic and professional field and partnerships with many of the world's leading societies. Wiley-Blackwell publishes nearly 1,500 peer-reviewed journals and 1,500+ new books annually in print and online, as well as databases, major reference works and laboratory protocols. For more information, please visit or our online platform, Wiley Online Library (, one of the world's most extensive multidisciplinary collections of online resources, covering life, health, social and physical sciences, and humanities.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.