Beans Over Bacon: How Plant Fats Lower Your Stroke Risks

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People push carts with vegetables for distribution during a food drive in Yangon
People push carts with vegetables for distribution during a food drive in Yangon AFP / STR

A new study has found that a diet heavy on animal fats led to an increased risk of suffering a stroke, but one with more plant-based fats reduced those chances.

On Monday, the results of the study were presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2021, NBC News reports. Using 27 years' worth of data collected from over 117,000 healthcare professionals, researchers were able to show that a relationship existed between the types of fats one consumed in their diet and their risk of stroke. 

It is often treated as conventional wisdom that fats as a whole do not have a place in a healthy diet. However, the researchers make clear that fats as a whole are not bad and that it was only when there was an imbalance of intake between plant and animal fats did it become a problem.

For example, they found that vegetarian sources of fat, such as beans and lentils, as well as polyunsaturated fats, like olive oil, lowered one’s risk of suffering a stroke by 12%. In contrast, those who consumed more animal fats on average were about 16% more likely to have a stroke. 

These findings are important to consider given that strokes are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. According to one study that relied on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 159,000 Americans died from a stroke in 2020, a number that has increased progressively in the last five years.

None of this is to say that animal fats need to be expelled from one’s diet altogether or that all vegetable fats are made equal. Whole vegetables are considered much healthier and conducive towards lowering risks of stroke compared to processed plant-based meat, which has become a more popular option with Americans individually and businesses.

The researchers also noted that their study was primarily observational, limiting its insight into how other variables, like salt intake, can play a part in stroke risk.

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