An Ingredient in Your Food Lowers Your Stroke Risk by 20%

Did you know that protein in your diet could help prevent a stroke? As it turns out, certain proteins have been linked to decreased incidence of stroke.

Swedish Research Study

Recently published results of a large Swedish research study revealed that one specific component found in dietary protein decreased stroke incidence in women. The study involved over 34,000 women who were instructed to keep food diaries.

The women were followed up for over 10 years. Of the 34,000 participants, 1751 were diagnosed with stroke. Based on the dietary records, it was found that those who had consumed a higher level of cysteine in their diets had a lower stroke rate by as much as 21%, while those who consumed lower levels of cysteine had higher stroke rates. The average cysteine intake among all participants in the study was about 635 milligrams of cysteine per day. Cysteine is one of the body’s 20 amino acids and it is a component of several types of protein.

Interestingly, other amino acids were tracked but were not associated with an increased or decreased stroke rate among participants of the research study.

What is Cysteine?

The proteins in our body help us build muscles and they also function to carry out many of our daily, life-sustaining functions. Proteins are complex molecules built of combinations of 20 different amino acid building blocks.

Of those 20 amino acids, 8 are considered essential amino acids, while 12 are categorized as non-essential amino acids. While the labeling of essential and non-essential amino acids makes it seem as if the 12 nonessential amino acids are not important, that is not true. Non-essential amino acids are necessary, but they can be produced by our own the bodies- meaning that it isn't essential to get them through our diet.

Cysteine is one of the non-essential amino acids, which means that your body regularly produces cysteine.

But cysteine is also a component of several protein- containing foods. The results of the Swedish study specifically evaluated dietary cysteine, not cysteine levels. This means that even though our bodies produce cysteine, having a higher cysteine intake through your food may help prevent a stroke.

Which Foods Contain Cysteine?

Some of the protein containing foods that are good sources of cysteine include animal products such as eggs, beef, chicken, pork, duck, turkey, ricotta cheese and yogurt. A 200-calorie serving of beef has about 440 milligrams of cysteine, while a 200 calorie serving of eggs has about 1100 milligrams of cysteine.

There are a few vegan sources of cysteine as well. They include red peppers, asparagus, carrots, lentils, garlic, wheat, and oats. A 200-calorie serving of lentils has about 650 milligrams of cysteine, while a 200-calorie serving of carrots has about 450 milligrams of cysteine and a 200-calorie serving of wheat bran has about 350 milligrams of cysteine.

How Does Cysteine Prevent Stroke?

There are a few possible mechanisms through which cysteine may work to prevent a stroke.

It has been shown to have antioxidant action. Antioxidants have been proven to have a long-term preventative effect on cerebrovascular disease and other stroke risk factors such as heart disease and heart attacks.

Additionally, cysteine has been shown to lower blood pressure. Hypertension, which is chronically elevated blood pressure, is one of the stroke risk factors.

A Healthy, Well-Balanced Diet

Your diet can be one of your most powerful tools in decreasing your risk of stroke. Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability. A well-balanced diet can help prevent hypertension, high cholesterol, elevated triglyceride levels and uncontrolled diabetes.

Paying attention to your diet may require some effort, but building good long-term dietary habits is possible with a little bit of planning.


Larsson SC, Hakansson N, Wolk A, Dietary cysteine and other amino acids and stroke incidence in women, Stroke, April 2015

McPherson RA, Hardy G, Clinical and nutritional benefits of cysteine-enriched protein supplements, Current Opinion Clinical Nutritional Metabolic Care, November 2011

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