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High Protein Diet May Lower Stroke Risk

fish in the display case at Rasputin Market
fish in the display case at Rasputin Market
Jared Cowan

Some good news for you Paleo-foodies: A new study has shown that moderate protein intake is associated with a reduced risk of stroke, according to WebMD. But that doesn't mean you can pig out on red meat, which tends to be high in saturated fat. Lean animal proteins like fish are best.

People with the highest amounts of animal protein in their diets were 20 percent less likely to suffer a stroke, compared to those who ate little to no protein, according to study author Xinfeng Liu of Nanjing University School of Medicine in China.

"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," Liu said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.

For every additional 20 grams per day of protein that people ate, their risk of stroke decreased by 26 percent, the researchers found. And that meant meat: The researchers concluded that animal protein offers more than twice the protective benefit against stroke as protein from vegetable sources. While animal protein could reduce stroke risk by 29 percent, vegetable protein lowered risk only about 12 percent. (This could be because animal protein is a "complete" protein, containing all of the amino acids.)

The research involved a meta-analysis of seven studies involving 254,489 participants. The results were published online June 11 in Neurology.

Two of the seven studies took place in Japan and a third took place in Sweden, where people tend to eat more fish than red meat. Red meat has previously been shown to increase stroke risk, while fish has been shown to reduce it.

Doctors aren't sure exactly why protein might have this protective effect. They think it might help protect against hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for stroke.

Toss that salmon on the grill!


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