Protein May Have Power to Prevent Strokes

Stroke risk lower in those who had moderate amount of protein in their diet

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) People typically can't predict when a stroke will happen, but they can take steps to prevent it. New research suggests that eating plenty of one particular nutrient may help to stop stroke before it strikes.

A recent review of studies found that people who ate diets high in protein were at decreased risk of stroke.

The researchers discovered that animal protein, with the exception of red meat, lowered the risk of stroke more than vegetable protein.

"Eat a balanced diet that includes foods with protein."

This review was conducted by Xinfeng Liu, MD, PhD, from the Department of Neurology in Jinling Hospital at Nanjing University School of Medicine in Jiangsu Province, China, and colleagues.

The review included seven previously published studies on the association between dietary protein intake and risk of stroke.

Four of the studies were conducted in the United States, two were conducted in Japan, and one was conducted in Sweden.

These studies included a combined total of 254,489 participants aged 34 to 89 years old, with individual study populations ranging from 859 people to 85,764 people. Follow-up time ranged from 10.4 to 18.0 years, with an average of 14.0 years. The studies were published over the last 20 years until November 2013.

Dr. Liu and team found that the people who had the highest amount of protein in their diet had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke than those who had the lowest amount of protein in their diet.

For every additional 20 grams of protein eaten per day, the participants’ risk of stroke fell by 26 percent.

These results accounted for other stroke risk factors, such as smoking and high cholesterol.

"If everyone's protein intake were at this level, that would translate to more than 1.4 million fewer deaths from stroke each year worldwide, plus a decreased level of disability from stroke," Dr. Liu said in a press statement.

The findings also revealed that expect for red meat, animal protein reduced the risk of stroke more than vegetable protein.

Dr. Liu explained that red meat has previously been linked to an increased risk of stroke, and red meat consumption was therefore not included in the reviewed studies.

The researchers also determined that protein may help lower blood pressure, which can help to lower stroke risk.

Dr. Liu and team noted that more research with larger study populations is needed before definitive recommendations can be made.

One limitation of this review was that the researchers used past data from observational studies, so there may have been other factors, such as a person's intake of certain nutrients, that the findings did not take into account. Also, the populations in each study were different from each other, and some of the participants’ diets may have been misreported or misclassified.

This review was published on June 11 in Neurology.

The National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Natural Science Foundation of Jinling Hospital provided funding.

Review Date: 
June 11, 2014
Last Updated:
June 13, 2014