While a high-protein diet may help shed the pounds, not all protein is equal. According to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health, eating plenty of red meat raises the risk of having a stroke while poultry lowers it.
The team of researchers collected data from two very large health surveys that tracked nearly 130,000 men and women from middle age to their senior and elderly years. Over the 20-some years of the study, nearly 1,400 men and more than 2,600 women had a stroke.
To see what influence different protein-rich foods had on the risk of stroke, the researchers divided up the people in the study based on how much red meat, poultry, fish, dairy and other sources of protein they typically ate each day.
Men who ate more than two servings of red meat each day, which was at the high end of the meat eaters, had a 28 percent increased risk of stroke compared to men who on average had one-third of a serving of red meat each day, the low end of the meat eaters.
Women who ate nearly two servings of red meat a day had a 19 percent higher risk of stroke than women who ate less than half a serving each day.
Swapping in one serving of poultry lowered stroke risk by 27 percent, a serving of nuts or fish was linked to a 17 percent drop, and a serving of dairy dropped the risk by 10 to 11 percent.
A serving of red meat was considered to be 113 to 170 grams (4 to 6 oz) of beef, or a hamburger patty. A serving of poultry was considered to be 113 grams (4 ounces).
People who ate the most chicken or turkey each day, about a half serving for women and three-quarters of a serving for men, had a 13 percent reduced risk of stroke compared with those who ate about a serving a day.
The researchers said it could be that the fat and iron in red meat play a role in upping stroke risk.
An earlier study from Stockholm, Sweden, also found that eating red meat was linked to a greater risk of stroke.
One surprise was that fish seemed to offer no protection against stroke, although the researchers said it was possible that the benefits of fish depend on how it's served.
Source: Stroke, A Journal of the American Heart Association, online December 28, 2011
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