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Trans fat linked to high risk of ischemic stroke

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By David Liu, PHD

Friday July 5, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Stroke is one of the leading cause of death. A new study found intake of trans fat or commonly known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils may increase the risk.

The study released in the March 2012 issue of Annals of Neurology showed women with their intake of trans fat in the highest quintile were 39 percent more likely to suffer ischemic stroke than those whose intake in the lowest quintile.  The analysis already considered multiple risk factors.

Sirin Yaemsiri MSPH of University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health in Chapel Hill, NC and colleagues found the association after analysing data from 87,025 healthy women aged 50 to 79 who were enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study.   During 663,041 person-years of follow-up, 1,049 incident cases of ischemic stroke were identified.

The analysis also led the researchers to find that of aspirin-users, those who had highest intake of trans fat were 66 percent more likely to suffer ischemic stroke, compared with those who had the lowest intake while of those non-aspirin users, those who had highest intake of trans fat were found at the same risk of ischemic stroke as those who had lowest intake.

Although trans fat did not seem to make any difference in the risk of stroke among aspirin-users, it does not mean taking aspirin reduced the risk.  Although there is such a possibility, it is also possible that aspirin users had other higher risk factors, for which they took aspirin in the first place, trans fat as a risk factor did not seem to be significant among this group.

Other fats including saturated, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat were not found associated with ischemic stroke or any ischemic stroke subtypes, the researchers reported.

Use of trans fat has been on the decline because of its association with cardiovascular disease and events. Harvard epidemiologists and nutritionists have found each year in the united States 100,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease have something to do with trans fat.

Trans fat like saturated fat is required by the Food and Drug Administration to be labeled.  It should be pointed out that zero trans fat on the label of a processed food does not really mean that there is zero grams of trans fat in the food.  It actually means that trans fat if present is no more than 0.5 grams per serving.  Because the size  of serving is arbitrary, virtually any food can be labeled as zero trans fat even if trans fat is present in the food in a large quantity.

In the United States, 795,000 people have a stroke. Ischemic strokes which occur when blood clots block the blood vessels to the brain are the most common strokes, accounting for 87 percent of all strokes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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