How Do Vegetable Fat and Animal Fat Affect Stroke Risk?

Researchers at AHA 2021 presented their findings on a study that examined how vegetable, dairy, and nondairy fats can affect stroke risk.

The following article is a part of conference coverage from the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2021, being held virtually from November 13 to 15, 2021. The team at Cardiology Advisor will be reporting on the latest news and research conducted by leading experts in cardiology. Check back for more from the AHA Scientific Sessions 2021.

A higher intake of polyunsaturated fat, vegetable fat, and vegetable oil was associated with reduced stroke risk, while a high intake of total red meat, processed red meat, and nondairy animal fat was associated with increased stroke risk, according to study results presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2021, held from November 13 to 15, 2021.

Researchers designed the current study to investigate the association between stroke risk and various types of fat, total fat, and fat from different food sources. Data on 73,867 women and 43,269 men free of cardiovascular disease and cancer at baseline were taken from 2 prospective cohort studies (the Nurses’ Health Study, 1984-2016, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, 1986-2016). Dietary fat was categorized by source and type, with intake determined using food-frequency questionnaires. The association between fat intake and risk for stroke was assessed using Cox proportional hazards models.

In 3,168,151 person-years (PY) of follow-up, 6189 incident stroke events (including 814 hemorrhagic and 2967 ischemic) were documented. A diet high in vegetable fat (hazard ratio [HR] comparing extreme quintiles 0.88; 95% CI, 0.81-0.96; P <.001) or polyunsaturated fat (HR 0.88; 95% CI, 0.80-0.96; P =.002) was associated with a lower total risk for stroke, while a diet high in nondairy animal fat was associated with increased risk (HR 1.16; 95% CI, 1.05-1.29; P <.001) for stroke. Similar associations were observed for ischemic stroke. However, for hemorrhagic stroke, there was only a positive association of nondairy animal fat.

Among foods that contribute to fat intake, vegetable oil (HR per 1 serving/day 0.91; 95% CI, 0.84-0.98) was associated with a lower total stroke risk, while total red meat (HR 1.08; 95% CI, 1.02-1.13) and processed red meat (HR 1.12; 95% CI, 1.03-1.23) were associated with increased risk. The association seen for vegetable oil was attenuated after adjustments were made for polyunsaturated fat or vegetable fat, while adjustments for nondairy animal fat made processed red meat and total red meat nonsignificant.

“Our findings indicate the type of fat and different food sources of fat are more important than the total amount of dietary fat in the prevention of cardiovascular disease including stroke,” Dr Fenglei Wang, lead study author, said. “…[W]e recommend for the general public to reduce consumption of red and processed meat, minimize fatty parts of unprocessed meat if consumed, and replace lard or tallow (beef fat) with non-tropical vegetable oils such as olive oil, corn or soybean oils in cooking in order to lower their stroke risk.”

Disclosure: Several study authors declared affiliations with the pharmaceutical industry. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.


Wang F, Baden MY, Rexrode KM, Hu FB. Dietary fat intake and the risk of stroke: results from two prospective cohort studies. Presented at: AHA Scientific Sessions 2021; November 13-15, 2021. Presentation RF160.


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