More Protein in Diet Linked to Lower Rates of Stroke

June 16, 2014
Jackie Syrop

A new meta-analysis found that people with the most protein in their diets are approximately 20% less likely to have a stroke than those who eat less protein.

A new meta-analysis found that people with the most protein in their diets are approximately 20% less likely to have a stroke than those who eat less protein. An extra 20 g of protein per day was linked to a 26% lower stroke risk, particularly if is from lean animal protein such as fish. The findings were published online June 11, 2014 in Neurology.

Researchers at the Nanjing University School of Medicine in China said the finding should be viewed with caution because protein intake tends to be linked with other nutrients, such as potassium and magnesium, which also may prevent stroke. However, the researchers said the relationship between protein and stroke persisted when they looked at only studies that took those factors into account.

“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,” study author Xinfeng Liu, MD, PhD, of Nanjing University School of Medicine in Nanjing, China, said in a statement to the American Academy of Neurology.

The review of 7 studies, each of which lasted at least 10 years, included a combined total of 255,000 people. The subjects either filled out periodic diet questionnaires or were asked to recall everything they’d eaten over the past 24 hours and followed up. Most of the studies accounted for age, sex, and history of diabetes as factors in stroke risk.

Eating protein may lower blood pressure, which in turn lowers stroke risk, the authors hypothesize, although other explanations for the findings may exist.

“Additional, larger studies are needed before definitive recommendations can be made, but the evidence is compelling,” Liu said.