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Southern Diet Linked to Higher Stroke Risk

Racial Disparity continued...

Judd and her colleagues also ranked people according to how well they stuck to a plant-based diet. The groups that followed this diet the most showed a 20% lower risk of stroke. "As long as you were eating some (of the plant-based diet), it looked like it was protective," she says.

"We'd love to look at that next -- to find out whether it’s the bad foods or the lack of good food" that raises stroke risk, she says.

Judd and her colleagues also hope to look at how the Southern diet might affect mental skills. And they would like to learn whether being born in the South or moving there makes a difference to dietary habits.

Novel Information

When asked to comment on the study, Brian Silver, MD, a neurologist at Rhode Island Hospital, called it "fantastic."

"The authors have done their homework in trying to really analyze in great detail the effects of diet on stroke risk," he says.

Silver says he was surprised to learn that almost two-thirds of the stroke risk is due to diet. "That is novel information for certain. It tells us that we can’t just blame our genes necessarily; we definitely do have to make efforts to try to fix our diet."

He wondered if people are "pre-programmed" genetically to eat the way they do or whether dietary choices are more influenced by culture. "What we do know now though is that it's changeable, because people were not this obese 100 years ago."

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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