July 15, 2018

Eating Trans Fats Increases Stroke Risk in Older Women

Most of us have heard that trans fats are bad news. Cities and states have enacted regulations limiting their use in restaurants and school lunches. Most food labels show trans fat amounts (to an extent).

And new research now shows that consuming trans fats increases stroke risk in older women. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says that women who ate the most trans fat are 39% more likely to have an ischemic stroke than women who ate the least trans fat.

Earlier studies concluded that trans fat consumption is linked to increased incidence of heart disease. But other studies have found no link between dietary fat intake and stroke incidence. Until now.

This study is larger than the two other studies that showed no link, and the earlier studies included only small numbers of stroke. Data was analyzed from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, which includes more than 87,000 healthy women between the ages of 50 and 79. A self-administered questionnaire regarding food intake and dietary choices was given three years apart.

The team found 1,049 cases of ischemic stroke (clots in blood vessels to the brain). The study was adjusted for dietary factors and lifestyle, and the connection between trans fat intake and stroke incidence was established.

It doesn’t take much trans fat to increase risk. The highest trans fat intake, most closely associated with ischemic stroke, was 6.1 grams per day. Unfortunately, the way trans fat is listed on food labels makes it pretty easy to eat that amount.

If a food source has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the label may say the food has “0 grams trans fat”. So if you eat 12 servings of foods that have 0.49 grams of trans fat per serving, you’ve consumed 5.88 grams. While believing you’ve eaten none.

The only way to tell if trans fat is in the food is to read the ingredient list. Any ingredient that has the words “hydrogenated” or “shortening” most likely contains trans fat.

There was some good news in the study; aspirin intake reduces the association between stroke and trans fat intake. The study’s authors said, “Our results highlight the importance of limiting the amount of dietary trans fat intake an dusing aspiring for primary ischemic stroke prevention among women, specifically postmenopausal women who have elevated risk of ischemic stroke.”

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