October 3, 2003
No Link Between Fat, Stroke Risk
CHICAGO— 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 October 4 issue of the British Medical Journal.
Ka He, MD, instructor in preventive medicine at the Feinberg School, 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, Dr. 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.
A total of 725new cases of stroke were documented during the follow-up period. Theseincluded 455 ischemic strokes, 125 hemorrhagic strokes, and 145 strokes of unknown type. No association was found betweenstroke and 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,” Dr. He said.
Although ischemic heart disease and stroke share manyrisk 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. Dr. He recently joined the preventive medicine faculty at the medical school.