Not all protein is equal and eating lots of red meat raises the risk of having a stroke while poultry lowers it, according to results from a US study.
"The main message from this paper is that the type of protein or the protein package is really important for the risk of stroke," Frank Hu at the Harvard School of Public Health said of the study, which was published in the journal Stroke. "We have to consider protein in the context of the foods."
To see what influence different types of dietary protein had on the risk of stroke, the researchers divided up a selection of people in the study based on how much red meat, poultry, fish, dairy and other sources of protein they typically ate each day.
Men who ate more than two servings of red meat each day, which was at the high end of the meat eaters, had a 28 percent increased risk of stroke compared to men who on average had a third of a serving of red meat each day, the low end of the meat eaters.
Women who ate nearly two servings of red meat a day had a 19% higher risk of stroke than women who ate less than half a serving each day.
Swapping in one serving of poultry lowered stroke risk by 27%, a serving of nuts or fish was linked to a 17% drop, and a serving of dairy dropped the risk by 10 to 11%.
People who ate the most chicken or turkey each day, about a half serving for women and three-quarters of a serving for men, had a 13% reduced risk of stroke compared with those who ate barely more than a serving a day.
Researchers did not prove that beef is to blame for the increased number of strokes, but Adam Bernstein, lead author of the study, said it could be that the fat and iron in red meat play a role.
An earlier study led by Susanna Larsson at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, also found that eating red meat had a link to the risk of stroke. "I do not think that poultry has been considered as a protein source that might lower the risk of stroke. This is new," said Larsson.