A recent study published in The Lancet Neurology spotlights overeating and excess salt, suggesting that the two are the biggest players in stroke risk rather than specific foods and nutrients. Graeme J. Hankey, MBBS, MD, FRCP, FRACP, Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, Western Australia, led the study.

Hankey highlights the environment’s impact on the behavior of developed and developing countries, which has potnetially caused them to overindulge, “Our living environments have become more conducive to consumption of energy and less conducive to expenditure of energy in developed and increasingly developed regions,” Hankey explains.

According to Hankey’s findings, between the years 1970 and 2007, the occurrence of stroke in high-income countries decreased by 42%, which is reportedly credited to higher awareness about the dangers of other stroke factors yielding from overindulgent behavior, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  The study’s results during this period also indicate that with the onslaught of industrialization and urbanization in developing, lower income countries, stroke occurrence increased by 100%. 

Reportedly, Hankey examined published studies yielding from a small number of randomized trials and large observational and epidemiological studies linking nutrition and diet to the risk of stroke. According to Hankey, the studies’ findings were diverse which he attributes to their epidemiological nature. 

To improve the quality of evidence relating to the association of many nutrients, foods, and dietary patterns and their links to stroke risk, Hankey calls for further research and suggests population-wide salt reduction programs led by governments and with industry cooperation. “In the USA, modest, population-wide reductions in dietary salt of up to 3 grams per day…are projected to reduce the annual number of new cases of stroke by 32,000 to 66,000, similar to the benefits of population-wide reductions in tobacco use, obesity, and cholesterol levels,” Hankey says.

Hankey adds that current evidence linking dietary nutrients, foods, and patterns to stroke is not ideal for offering reliable conclusions about causality.

Source: The Lancet Neurology