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Asian Strokes Are Not Same as Western

The higher the consumption of saturated fat, the lower the risk of death from stroke, according to Japanese researchers in a recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Most physicians in the West would have predicted the opposite: saturated fats increase your risk of stroke.  Western physicians tend to think most strokes and heart attacks are caused by the same process, atherosclerosis, and would be aggravated by saturated fat consumption.  We’re learning that ain’t necessarily so.

Most strokes in the Western world are thought to be linked to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) of relatively large arteries. In Japan, most strokes not caused by bleeding in the head are actually lacunar infarctions involving small arteries in the brain, not necessarily involving atherosclerosis

Another major difference between East and West is that saturated fat consumption in Japan is far lower than in the West.

Are you confused yet?

It seems to me that comparing strokes in Japan versus the West is comparing apples to oranges.  The take-away point to me is that we have to be quite wary of generalizing the research results applicable to one culture or ethnic group, to others.

By the way, stroke had been the third leading cause of death in the U.S. for the last 50 years.  It was recently demoted to fourth place by chronic lower respiratory disease.  The traditional Mediterranean diet is one way to reduce your risk of stroke, and the DASH diet works for women.  Keeping your blood pressure under 140/90 is another.  And don’t smoke.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Yamagishi, Kazumasa, et al.  Dietary intake of saturated fatty acids and mortality from cardiovascular disease in Japanese: the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study for Evaluation of Cancer Risk Study.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 4, 2010.  doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.29146

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