Popular Diets Affect Your Stroke Risk

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Diet systems are popular. For everyone who has tried to lose weight or eat healthy, the whole process can be a challenge. Some of the mainstream diet methods are well liked because they suggest a schedule and a regimen that you can follow as you are trying to lose weight, which is often more appealing than living by general principles such as 'eat healthy' or 'cut back on calories.'

But while these diets may be effective for weight loss, this does not guarantee that they are beneficial for your overall wellness.

One of the most influential factors in determining your overall longevity is your stroke risk. So it makes sense to try to understand how the most prevalent diets affect your chance of having a stroke. A stroke is one of the most common causes of death and disability, and preventing a stroke adds an average of 12.5 years to your lifespan!

The Paleolithic Diet

This diet has emerged as an approach for weight loss and healthy eating. A very popular diet, the purest form requires eating only foods that are believed to have been eaten by cavemen. This includes meat (grass fed, no hormones) fish, nuts, vegetables and fruit. A cornerstone of the diet is the elimination of processed foods, added sugars, grains and dairy products.

At this time, the Paleo Diet has been studied less than many of the other diet systems, simply because it is newer. Nevertheless, even with only some available data, the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease appear to be lowered with the Paleo Diet.

This is largely due to the elimination of processed foods that are understood to be responsible for the oxidative damage and inflammation that set the stage for stroke. Additionally, the Paleo Diet is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help repair and maintain your body's natural functions.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a style of eating that incorporates fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, fish, legumes and whole grains. Often referred to as a Mediterranean style diet, this diet allows for a wider variety of carbohydrates than the Paleo Diet, but, like the Paleo Diet, it also cuts down on processed foods.

A Mediterranean style diet is a healthy approach to eating that may or may not result in weight loss due to the wide variety of foods that are acceptable in the diet and the inclusion of carbohydrates. However, when it comes to stroke risk, the Mediterranean diet is a winner, with a number of scientific studies demonstrating stroke reduction and improved heart health with a Mediterranean style diet.

South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet is an eating regimen that you can join with a membership, or by purchasing a South Beach Diet cuisine or that you can adopt by learning the system yourself and preparing your own food according to the guidelines.

This is a 3-stage diet, with the first two stages being more restrictive than the third phase, which is a maintenance phase. This diet is based on eating some fats, proteins and carbohydrates while eliminating others, particularly high glycemic foods. The system involves eating foods at certain times to achieve the optimal combination. Overall, The South Beach Diet is credited with effective weight loss for those who are disciplined enough to learn the rules and to consistently follow it.

While there are no studies evaluating the impact of The South Beach Diet on stroke risk, this diet may control diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a pre- diabetic condition) due to the low glycemic intake, which can help reduce the risk of stroke and reduce the heart disease that leads to stroke. But, this diet can be also associated with nutritional deficiency, which may lead to a variety of medical conditions, so it is vital to pay attention to getting the right nutrients if you plan to follow this diet.

The Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet is a diet that is designed for weight loss. Based on carbohydrate restriction, moderate protein and a high fat intake, this diet eliminates breads, rice and pasta, while incorporating heavy creams and whole fats. 

The Atkins Diet is difficult to maintain, as most people who are on the diet feel hungry due to the lack of carbohydrates. However, for those who can follow The Atkins Diet, it is effective for weight loss.

Overall, this diet approach is associated with a worsened risk of stroke and stroke-inducing vascular disease and heart disease. These consequences result from the high cholesterol and high fat intake that is not balanced by other nutrients.

Some adherents to this diet can, however, avoid the increased stroke risk. Dieters who can consume the right ratio of proteins to saturated fats and unsaturated fats, as well as the optimal amounts of long and short chain fatty acids and who can plan the whole day's food intake around strategically designed cardio and weight training exercise, can use The Atkins Diet without increasing the risk of stroke or heart disease.

Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low protein, and no carbohydrate diet that is more restrictive than the Atkins Diet. This regimen is used as a medically prescribed method of seizure control for children who suffer from the most difficult to control epilepsy syndromes.

And some die-hard athletes and weight loss devotees have adopted the ketogenic diet. While the ketogenic diet does work to produce weight loss, it is remarkably difficult to maintain because of the hunger involved and the extreme lack of food variety.

The risk of stroke, vascular disease and heart disease is increased with a ketogenic diet. As with the Atkins Diet, knowledgeable dieters can create a strategy to consume fats and proteins in a ratio and composition that does not substantially increase the risk of vascular disease or stroke.

Vegetarian Diet

A vegetarian diet is a diet that eliminates animal meat, and possibly other animal products, such as eggs and dairy. A vegetarian diet may incorporate a variety of grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, but may also include a range of processed foods and ‘junk food’, depending on the dieter.

Overall, a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of stroke. However, a vegetarian diet that includes deep fried foods, processed foods and junk food may cause weight gain and nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B12 deficiency.

Gluten Free Diet

A gluten free diet is a diet that specifically eliminates gluten, which is a protein found in wheat. A gluten free diet is primarily useful for people who have celiac disease, although many individuals who suffer from persistent digestive problems experience a degree of improvement with a gluten free diet.

Interestingly, while a gluten free diet does not specifically affect stroke risk, untreated celiac disease is associated with a slight increase in stroke risk, which may result from the inflammation of untreated celiac disease. Inflammation is a major cause of stroke, as chronic inflammation builds up over years, producing injury to the blood vessels in the brain, and throughout the body, which may cause them to become obstructed with blood clots.

A Word From Verywell

Your weight does affect your chances of having a stroke. Being overweight doubles your risk of stroke while being underweight is associated with an increased risk of stroke death. For those who cannot lose weight using exercise and diet, weight loss surgery has been found to reduce the risk of stroke.

A number of well- known diet methods can make weight loss easier because of the systematic guidance in a pre designated eating plan. However, some of the diet regimens may increase your stroke risk, while other diets can help prevent a stroke. When considering which diet is right for you, it is best to examine all of the consequences of a given diet plan in addition to your weight loss goals.

Sources:

Carbohydrates and endothelial function: is a low-carbohydrate diet or a low-glycemic index diet favourable for vascular health? Jovanovski E, Zurbau A, Vuksan V, Clin Nutr Res. 2015 Apr;4(2):69-75

Low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-fat diet alters small peripheral artery reactivity in metabolic syndrome patients, Merino J, Kones R, Ferré R, Plana N, Girona J, Aragonés G, Ibarretxe D, Heras M, Masana L, Clin Investig Arterioscler. 2014 Mar-Apr;26(2):58-65

Paleolithic and Mediterranean Diet Pattern Scores Are Inversely Associated with Biomarkers of Inflammation and Oxidative Balance in Adults, Whalen KA, McCullough ML, Flanders WD, Hartman TJ, Judd S, Bostick RM. J Nutr. 2016 Jun;146(6):1217-26.

Young adults with coeliac disease may be at increased risk of early atherosclerosis, De Marchi S, Chiarioni G, Prior M, Arosio E, Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2013 Jul;38(2):162-9

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