Seven studies involving more than 250,000 people following them for an average of 14 years have shown that a diet rich in protein, though not the kind in red meat, can lower a person’s stroke risk by up to 20 percent. The seven studies were analyzed by researchers from the Nanjing University School, and the protein sources that seemed to yield the biggest benefits were chicken and fish like salmon.
According to Dr. Jennifer Frontera in a report by WJHG Channel 17 News, she and the other researchers think that a part of the reason that they found that the participants in the seven studies who consumed the highest amount of protein had up to 20 percent less of a risk to have a stroke is that eating a diet high in protein improves their “cholesterol profiles.”
Also, people who eat a lot of fish rich in “omega-3 fatty acids” seem to have lower blood pressure, and Dr. Frontera stated that “blood pressure is a major risk factor for all kinds of strokes.” Lower blood pressures plus improved cholesterol profiles, Dr. Frontera suggested, were both key factors in the lower stroke risk of the participants in the seven studies who ate diets that were high in protein.
The amount of the difference in the people whose diets were higher in protein in comparison to the lower protein diets was only 20 grams, which didn’t amount to all that much; but, the difference, according to the analysis of the seven studies, was significant in lowering the risk of stroke by up to 20 percent in those who ate the 20 extra grams per day.
Also, the researchers discovered that for the participants in the seven studies who ate even more protein (not counting red meat), every added 20-gram amount again lowered their stroke risk by up to 26 percent.
According to the researchers on their analysis of the seven studies conducted in China and Japan (two were in Japan), substituting red meat for other protein sources could lead to a significantly lowered risk of stroke. Doctors across the board maintain that people who have healthy diets, in general, have reduced risks not only of strokes, but also of heart attacks and the incidence of other heart diseases. The findings of the researchers from the Nanjing University School were published June 11, 2014, in a study called Protein Diet and Stroke, and can be read in the Neurology online journal.
Though the study’s lead author, Xinfeng Liu, MD, PhD, stated that “the evidence is compelling,” he also said that “before definitive recommendations can be made” that are even more definitive, “larger studies are needed.” However, Lui added that the seven studies indicate if everyone consumed high protein diets, in which the protein comes primarily from chicken and fish, there could be “1.4 million fewer deaths from stroked each year worldwide.”
Vegetable protein is also beneficial, but the seven studies showed that the correlation of reduced risk of stroke was stronger for people who consumed animal protein, other than red meat. Salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, is one of the best sources of animal protein. Omega-3 fatty acids also have been associated with other health benefits, and touted as being good for the heart, brain, and joints of people who consumed fish like salmon, or omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
A diet that contains 20 grams of protein per day can be equated to eating one salmon fillet or chicken breast. The seven studies analyzed by the Chinese researchers indicate that eating diets that are rich in protein and that substitute red meat for chicken and fish is a relatively inexpensive and easy way of lowering the risk of stroke by 20 percent, or possibly more, if a person’s diet is even higher in protein.
Written by: Douglas Cobb