The Center for Nutrition Studies’ Medical Director Dr. Thomas Campbell published a commentary on plant-based nutrition and stroke risk in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology. Below you can read an excerpt that includes the “Introduction” and “Conclusions” of his article titled, A plant-based diet and stroke. The full article is open access to the public and can be viewed on PubMed Central.
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States and globally. Each year, approximately 795,000 Americans experience a stroke. Total annual costs of stroke, both direct and indirect, amount to $33 billion. Ischemic stroke is predicted to cost more than $2.2 trillion between 2005 and 2050. In the United States, 87% of all strokes are ischemic, 10% are due to intracerebral hemorrhage, and 3% are due to subarachnoid hemorrhage.
The purpose of this review is to briefly examine selected evidence suggestive of nutrition, particularly plant-based nutrition, being a determinant of stroke incidence and mortality.
There are numerous risk factors for stroke, including advanced age, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, atrial fibrillation, smoking, physical inactivity, poor nutrition, family history, chronic kidney disease, obesity, coronary heart disease, sleep apnea, and depression.1 Several of these risk factors are modifiable lifestyle factors or are affected by modifiable lifestyle factors thus leading to the understanding that certain lifestyle choices may have a significant impact on stroke risk. The purpose of this review is to briefly examine selected evidence suggestive of nutrition, particularly plant-based nutrition, being a determinant of stroke incidence and mortality.
Stroke is a heterogeneous collection of disorders with varying mechanisms; nevertheless, hypertension, atherosclerosis, or atrial fibrillation, or often a combination of all three, are key components of most strokes. Increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and minimizing or avoiding intake of meat and processed foods has been associated with decreased prevalence of obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes. Intervention studies have demonstrated benefits from very low-fat, high-fiber plant-based diets in the treatment of these conditions. In addition, this dietary pattern has been shown to have the ability to halt or reverse atherosclerosis via multiple mechanisms. Even though findings are limited and inconsistent regarding nutrition’s effects on specific stroke subtypes, observational studies of stroke incidence and mortality support eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat. While interventional research is even scarcer, a Mediterranean diet has proven beneficial.
Given the demonstrable benefits of plant-based nutrition on stroke risk factors and the limited supporting observational and interventional research, further investigations of the ability of plant-based diets with minimal or no animal-based foods and processed foods to prevent stroke is strongly justified. In the absence of further research, those patients at high risk of stroke, particularly ischemic stroke, should be educated about plant-based nutrition with adequate B12 as a potentially powerful disease risk modifier.
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