- According to a recent study published in the journal Neurology, adhering to a vegetarian diet can lower your risk of stroke.
- While a vegetarian diet does have many benefits, it tends to be low in vitamin B12, so it’s important to be mindful that you’re getting enough of the vitamin from foods like eggs or dairy.
Thinking about going meatless? Previous research has linked a vegetarian diet to better gut health and a lower chance of developing diabetes, to name a couple of benefits. Now, a recent study in the journal Neurology suggests loading up on vegetables, nuts, and soy could lessen your stroke risk, too.
Researchers in Taiwan examined the diets of more than 13,000 people who had been followed for 12 to 15 years. These people also had other health measures checked like vitamin levels, smoking, alcohol use, physical activity, body mass index, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Their findings? Those who followed a vegetarian diet were 60 to 74 percent less likely to experience ischemic stroke—the kind that happens when an artery supplying blood to the brain becomes blocked—and had a 65 percent lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when an artery in the brain ruptures or leaks.
Those in the lower-risk group had high consumption of vegetables, soy, and nuts compared to higher-risk participants. (It’s worth noting that simply cutting out the animal protein from your diet isn’t enough to slash your stroke risk—many processed snacks like cookies and chips are vegetarian, after all.) This isn’t surprising, since these are abundant in the Taiwanese diet, lead study author Chin-Lon Lin, M.D., CEO of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation in Taiwan told Bicycling.
Lin said Taiwanese cuisine isn’t unique in terms of those options—for example, the most commonly eaten vegetables are broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions, and spinach. The study suggests that adding these types of foods to your diet can reduce your blood pressure, and previous research has found that keeping your blood pressure under control can lessen your risk of a stroke.
But there is a wrinkle here. Vegetarians in the study showed lower blood levels of vitamin B12, and Lin said deficiencies in that vitamin specifically have been shown to cause anemia and even neurological problems in extreme cases. Also, low B12 is associated with higher stroke risk.
“Although vegetarians do have lower levels of B12, they still have lower rates of stroke overall, as our study indicates,” Lin said. “This is probably the result of lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and more antioxidants.”
Although she wasn’t part of the study, Martha Lawder, R.D.N., president-elect of the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Bicycling that this research also highlights a higher intake of fiber by the vegetarians, which is likely a contributing factor to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which has been shown to reduce stroke risk.
And in terms of getting enough vitamin B12, Lawder suggests vegetarians get it from dietary sources like dairy or eggs, as well as fortified cereals, nutritional yeast, and some fortified meat or dairy alternatives.
“But plant-based sources of B12 can be unreliable because plants do not have a metabolic need for the vitamin, and so they have no way to make or store it,” she said. Because of that, she suggests people following a vegetarian or vegan diet should consider having serum B12 levels tested periodically to ensure they’re getting enough from food to meet their metabolic needs.
[Find 52 weeks of tips and motivation, with space to fill in your mileage and favorite routes, with the Bicycling Training Journal.]
If a supplement is necessary, Lawder advises to look for one with a third-party certifier like NSF or USP on the label, and to talk with your doctor to make sure it won’t interfere with other medication you may be taking. Also, she cautioned, more is not always better.
“It’s important not to take mega doses of dietary supplements, as this can also be associated with negative health outcomes,” Lawder said.
Source: Thanks https://www.bicycling.com/news/a31280899/vegetarian-diet-benefits-lower-stroke-risk-study/