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A new study suggests that vegetarians and vegans may have a higher risk of stroke compared to meat-eaters.
Published in the British Medical Journal, the research aimed to determine whether meatless diets have health risks. Researchers from the University of Oxford observed 48,188 people from the United Kingdom, who did not have a history of stroke or heart ailments, at the onset of the study. The participants were categorized as meat eaters, fish eaters, and vegetarians and vegans based on their responses regarding their diets. They were monitored for 18 years and were asked about their lifestyle and medical history.
During the 18-year research period, there were 2,820 coronary heart disease and 1,072 stroke cases documented within the entire group.
The researchers discovered that there was a lower heart disease risk for both fish-eaters and vegetarians and vegans. However, they also found that vegans and vegetarians have a 20% higher risk of stroke than meat-eaters. Those with meatless diets were particularly at risk of a hemorrhagic stroke, an uncommon type of stroke that occurs when blood vessels erupt and bleed into the brain.
While the exact reason for the higher stroke risk is unclear, the researchers speculate that it may be due to vegans and vegetarians missing out on key vitamins and nutrients that cannot be effectively sourced from plant-based diets. Some studies have correlated very low cholesterol levels and vitamin B12 deficiency with increased stroke risk.
The researchers mentioned that the study was the first to look into the link between stroke and plant-based diets. They, therefore, recommend further research to determine how stroke risk is exactly related to cholesterol and certain nutrients.