Diet and health have a more complex relationship than was previously thought. There has been a lot of research that is being conducted to understand how our bodies react to certain foods as compared to some others. For instance, while vegan and vegetarian diets have been till now been projected as healthier for the heart as compared with diets including various kinds of meats, a new study is forcing us to think about our beliefs again. The study has said that while vegan and vegetarian diets may be linked with lower risk of heart diseases, they might be linked with higher risk of stroke. The study indicated that those who follow vegan or vegetarian diets may be more likely as compared to meat eaters, to suffer a stroke.
The study titled, "Risks of ischaemic heart disease and stroke in meat eaters, fish eaters, and vegetarians over 18 years of follow-up: results from the prospective EPIC-Oxford study", was published in the British Medical Journal. The study included data from 48,188 people. None of the participants had a history of heart disease or stroke at the start of the study. The researchers split the participants in three different categories- meat-eaters, fish-eaters (who consume fish but no meat), and finally people who followed the vegan and vegetarian diet. The subjects were followed up for a total of 18 years and during this period, 2,820 cases of ischaemic heart disease were reported and 1,072 cases of stroke were reported.
The researchers found that fish-eaters had a 13 per cent less risk of heart disease as compared to meat eaters, while for vegans and vegetarians, this risk was 22 per cent less. However, they also found 20 per cent higher risk of stroke in vegans and vegetarians, as compared to meat-eaters. This was mostly due to higher reported cases of haemorrhagic stroke, which is caused by bleeding in or around the brain. Lower levels of several nutrients like essential vitamins were reported to be the cause of this link between high stroke risk and vegetarian diet.
The study concluded by saying, "Overall, the present study has shown that UK adults who were fish eaters or vegetarians had lower risks of ischaemic heart disease than meat eaters, but that vegetarians had higher risks of stroke. Future work should include further measurements of circulating levels of cholesterol subfractions, vitamin B12, amino acids, and fatty acids in the cohort to identify which factors might mediate the observed associations."