Does vegetarianism or going vegan lower the risk of stroke?
Well, this is one of the most asked questions related to eating habits and health. It is also one of the most controversial questions in this topic, given how confusingly contradictory many researches and studies have concluded.
So, in this article, let us look at two popular studies on this topic and try to come to an acceptable interpretation. Let us first look at a study that showed a vegetarian diet linked to lower stroke risk.
The Taiwan study
According to a study that was published in Neurology, a medical journal, it was found that a vegetarian diet linked to a lower risk of stroke.
The study was conducted in Taiwan between two groups of people belonging to the Buddhist community. Around 13,000 participants were medically examined at the beginning of the study and were also asked about their diet, smoking and drinking habits, and physical activity. The average age of the participants was 50 years.
The researchers then followed up with the first group for 6 years and the second group for 9 years.
Around 30% of these participants were vegetarians. At the end of the study, the vegetarians had only half the risk of experiencing a stroke compared to their non-vegetarians counterparts. These vegetarians primarily ate nuts, vegetables, and soy as part of their diet. They also drank more but smoked less.
Both groups ate an equal amount of eggs and fruits, while the non-vegetarian group consumed more amount of fat and dairy than the vegetarians.
The test results held true even after the researchers adjusted the risk factors like high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.
The overall results of the study add support to the fact that a vegetarian diet considerably lowers the risk of heart strokes. Now, it is also important to note that the researchers assessed the participant’s diets at the beginning of the research. This suggests that the participants may have changed their eating habits during the course of the follow-ups.
Study published in the British Medical Journal
In another noteworthy study from EPIC-Oxford that was published in the British Medical Journal suggested that vegans and vegetarians may have a higher risk of (hemorrhagic) stroke. This study took note of the eating habits of over 48,000 vegetarians and non-vegetarians in the U.K. for 18 years.
It concluded that vegetarians had lower risks of heart or ischemic heart diseases compared to non-vegetarians. However, vegetarians were 20% more likely to have a stroke than their meat-eating counterparts. However, the study did not make it clear whether the results were solely due to eating habits or had an influence of lifestyle.
From the above 2 studies, for the most part, we do not have enough evidence to suggest one diet is better than the other. That being said, it is a known fact that a vegetarian diet has numerous long-term health benefits.
But the question remains. Which diet should we follow? Well, there is currently no definitive answer to this question. However, most dietitians agree with the fact that one would immensely benefit from eating a wide variety of foods. In other words, it is suggested to have a balanced or a well-planned diet.
Here’s a blueprint of a balanced diet.
- Include at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables: Including them in your diet is known to reduce the risk of heart diseases, including stroke and certain cancers.
- Have a decent amount of high-fiber starchy foods like potatoes, rice, and bread for energy, fiber, iron, calcium, and vitamin B.
- Add protein for maximum benefits: Do not forget to include some source of protein in all your meals for better results like building muscles, weight loss, improved immunity, and much more. Keep switching between different protein sources like poultry, fish, cottage cheese, pulses, nuts, etc.
- Don’t forget dairy: It improves your bone health and provides vital nutrients like calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and many others that are essential for maintaining your overall health.
- Do not shy away from including healthy fat: Some good sources of healthy fats are ghee, fatty fishes, chia seeds, cheese, olive oil, etc. Healthy fats are known to reduce the risk of heart diseases and stroke and maintain proper blood pressure. They are also known to reduce cholesterol levels.
- Refrain from eating highly processed and high sugar and salt foods: It goes without saying that eating such foods increases the risk of various health disorders.
We understand that this is too much information to process, however, hope that you were able to get an idea of it. While this is nowhere close to professional advice and was solely written to give you an idea about it, we recommend consulting a nutritionist to understand your health condition and get a tailored diet plan for you.