Overeating pattern increases stroke risk, Australian scientist findings

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 13th December 2011

A prominent Western Australian scientist has found that, despite numerous studies previously highlighting the potential benefits of consuming specific nutrients and foods to prevent stroke, dietary patterns and overeating are more likely to predict stroke risk.

Professor Graeme Hankey from the Royal Perth Hospital made the claims in an article published today in The Lancet Neurology, one of the world’s leading medical journals.

Professor Hankey believes that these previous studies have been based on unreliable evidence, and dietary patterns and excess energy intake (overeating) are more likely to predict stroke risk.

Although the benefits of tackling the two main nutritional threats to the risk of stroke (over-consumption of calories and salt) are well known, legislation and policies to address the salt and obesity epidemics are not widespread enough, according to Professor Hankey.

Which nutrient?

He said that although malnutrition and over-consumption of calories are known to increase the risk of stroke, relatively little is known about which individual nutrients and foods affect the risk of developing stroke.

“One of the reasons is the lack of reliable evidence from randomised trials,” Professor Hankey said. “The few that have been conducted suggest that dietary supplements including antioxidant vitamins, B vitamins, and calcium do not lower the risk of stroke and could actually increase the chance of a heart attack and dying.

“Another reason is that most studies have assessed stroke as a single outcome and as a result have potentially missed important effects of nutrients, foods, beverages, and dietary patterns on different types of stroke,” he added.

Target food labels

Professor Hankey said that, unlike the tobacco and cardiovascular disease epidemic, the obesity and salt epidemics have not been reversed by public health interventions and policies aimed at individuals to change personal choice and behaviour.

Reformulation with salt reduction targets

He said that more needs to be done to set and enforce targets for nutritional contents in processed foods and standards for food labelling.

“There is growing evidence that enforcing salt targets for foods could be highly cost effective. For instance, in the USA, modest population-wide reductions in salt of just 3 g per day could reduce the annual number of new cases of stroke by 32,000 to 66,000,” Professor Hankey said.