Diet-stroke risk explored

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People who eat a southern diet, heavy on deep-fried foods and sugary drinks like sweet tea and soda, are more likely to suffer a stroke, according to a new study. This study began in 2002 when researchers began to administer food surveys to more than 20,000 people in the contiguous 48 states, sorting respondents into five different diet styles. The most notable were the southern diet fried foods, processed meats, red meat, eggs, sweet drinks and whole milk and the plant-based diet fruits, vegetables, juice, cereal, fish, poultry, yogurt, nuts and whole-grain bread.

Those who ate six meals per week consisting of foods in the Southern diet had a 41 percent higher stroke risk than people who rarely ate those foods. People who ate meals mainly characterized by the plant-based diet had a 29 percent lower risk of stroke.
The authors postulate that these findings may help explain why blacks in the southeast, also known as the stroke belt, suffer more strokes. Blacks are five times more likely than whites to eat a diet largely characterized as Southern. And in the southeast, this diet style is much more common than in other parts of the United States.

Dr. Brian Silver, a Brown University neurologist and stroke center director at Rhode Island Hospital says, This study does strongly suggest that food does have an influence and people should be trying to avoid these kinds of fatty foods and high sugar content. But he also echoes a sentiment with which many of us can identify. I don t mean to sound like an ogre. I know when I m in New Orleans I certainly enjoy the food there. But you don t have to make a regular habit of eating all this stuff.

Dr. Gilbert Ross begs to differ. The categories the authors have crafted make little sense and the differentiation among the study subjects into these categories appears completely arbitrary. To me, it seems they wanted to make a case for a certain type of diet consisting of bad foods and link those to increased risk of stroke. I am not at all convinced that such a link has been found based on this study.

On the other hand, commented Dr. Kava, frequent consumption of highly caloric foods such as those in the Southern diet can easily lead to obesity and diabetes which is more prevalent in the deep South than in other parts of the country.