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Excessive Red Meat Ups Women’s Stroke Risk

January 2, 2011

A new study on over 30,000 Swedish women found that those who eat a lot of red meat may be putting themselves at an increased risk of having a stroke.

The team found that those in the top tenth for red meat consumption, who ate at least 102 grams or 3.6 ounces every day, were 42 percent more likely to suffer stroke because of blocked blood flow in the brain compared to women who ate less than 25 grams of red meat per day.

According to Reuters, heavy red meat diets have been linked to a number of ill effects, including an increased rise of certain cancers, heart disease, and high blood pressure.  However, only three studies have looked at red meat and stroke risk.

Dr. Susanna Larsson of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, along with her team, looked at 34,670 women 39 to 73 years old.  All were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer at the start of the study.

During 10 years of follow-up, 1,680 women had a stroke.

Stroke caused by blockage of an artery that supplies blood to the brain was the most common type of stroke, representing 78 percent of all strokes in the study.  Other types of strokes were due to bleeding in the brain, or unspecified causes.

Once the team divided women into five groups based on how much red meat they ate, the researchers found that those in the top fifth, who ate at least 86 grams per day, were at a 22 percent greater risk of cerebral infarction than women in the bottom fifth.

Women who ate the most processed meat were at a 24 percent greater risk of this type of stroke than women who consumed the least.

However, there was no link between consumption of red or processed meat and risk of other types of stroke.  There was also no relationship found between fresh meat consumption or poultry consumption to any type of stroke.

Red meat increased stroke risk in non-smokers and in women who did not have diabetes. 

The researchers say that several mechanisms could explain the link between red meat and processed meat and stroke risk.

Both types of meat have been tied to high blood pressure, which is the main cause of stroke.  The iron contained in red meats might also accelerate the production of tissue-damaging free radicals. 

Larsson and her team also pointed out that processed meats are high in sodium, which can increase blood pressure.

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