It has long been known that fat dramatically increases risks for stroke and heart attacks.  However until this week no one had analyzed results on what kind of fat is most responsible for the horrors.  A study released just this Monday (November 8, 2021) indicates that animal fat was key, not the amount of fat consumed!

The study found that eating more animal fat was linked to a higher risk of stroke, while getting more fat from vegetable sources was linked to a lower risk. Particularly troubling was that red animal meat was found to be the chief culprit. Since stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death responsible for hundreds of thousands of untimely fatalities, scientist have been seeking answers to the trigger mechanism of strokes for a very long time.

The results come from 27 years of data from more than 117,000 health care professionals that were compiled from two of the largest and longest-running nutritional studies in the U.S.  For these elongated periods participants completed questionnaires and updated researchers with their medical records and test results.  Most (90%) strokes are caused by blood clots in the brain (ischemic stroke).  Interestingly the study found that eating more vegetable fat, including olive oil, reduced your chances of ischemic stroke while eating more red meat increased your chances (12% reduction vs 16% increase respectively).  Fat from dairy was not associated with any stroke risk.

“If everyone could make small modifications, such as reducing red and processed meat intake, the implication for public health will be huge,” said the study leader, Fenglei Wang, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Wang’s findings were presented Monday at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2021.

Tracy Severson, a registered dietitian, said “swapping even one meal of red meat a week and replacing it with an unprocessed vegetarian option is going to be good for cardiovascular health”.  She followed up “There’s no need for perfection, but there is so much power in improving our health with our food choices. We can prevent the bulk of illnesses like stroke by changing what we’re eating,” Severson said. “Even if you’re genetically predisposed to cardiovascular disease like stroke, having a healthy diet can bring your risk down to the same risk as someone who doesn’t have a genetic risk factor.”

Vegetarians have long eschewed red meat, recommending instead the benefits of a plant based diet for a generation now.  However the human pallets desire for cooked flesh has overcome all warnings.  Now, for the first time we have an extremely large and well documented study composed over a 27 year period.  Knowledge like this does not often come.  It’s amazing to this writer how powerful the human need for self-immersion is.  We now have conclusive proof that red meat contributes to the deaths of hundreds of thousands each year and that it is also terrible for the environment, contributing almost 30% of toxins to the atmosphere (methane gas).

Will any of this make a difference? We doubt it but we can always hope as hope does ring eternal.