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High Trans Fat Diets Increase Women's Stroke Risk


A new study presented Wednesday at the American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference 2010 found that high fat diets, particularly those high in trans-fatty acids, can significantly raise the risk of stroke for women over 50.

Dr. Emil Matarese, stroke chief at St. Mary Medical Center in Pennsylvania reviewed research involving over 87,000 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative that found that those who ate the most fat had a 44% higher risk of the most common type of stroke compared to those who ate the least.

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The study was conducted by Dr. Ka He, a nutrition specialist from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Female participants aged 50-79 filled out detailed surveys on their diets. They were followed up after seven years and of the group who had the highest intakes of total fat, an average of 85-95 grams a day, 288 had an ischemic stroke, the kind caused by blockages in the blood vessels that supply the brain.

Of those who had high intakes of trans fat – approximately 7 grams each day - there was an associated 30% greater risk of stroke. Trans fat is made by taking an unsaturated fat and adding hydrogen to increase stability. It is most common in stick margarine and shortening, fried foods, crackers, snack foods, and baked goods such as cookies and pastries.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting fat to less than 25 to 35% of total calories, which equals approximately 50 grams in a 1500 calorie diet. Trans fat should be limited to less than 1%, about 1.6 grams in the same amount of calories.

Research from another recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology found the best diet to reduce the risk of cerebrovascular disease was the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat.