Fatty Acid Lowers Stroke Risk

Found In Some Vegetable Oils, Soybeans

Medically Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD
From the WebMD Archives

Although previous studies have shown that some types of fatty acids, such as those found in fish and olive oil, can be good for the heart, the role individual fatty acids play in affecting stroke risk is unclear. But Japanese researchers say their study shows that the fatty acid known as linoleic acid may reduce the risk of strokes, especially those caused by blood clots (ischemic strokes).

In general, fatty acids play an important role in various processes in the body such as regulating blood pressure, blood clotting, and inflammation. And linoleic acid has also been shown to help lower blood cholesterol.

In the study, researchers examined frozen blood samples from 7,450 Japanese men and women between the ages of 40 and 85 and compared the stroke risk associated with various types of fatty acids. Within this group, 122 clot-related strokes and 75 strokes caused by bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke) occurred during the study.

Researchers found for every 5% increase in the level of linoleic acid, there was a 28% reduction in the risk of either type of stroke, a 34% drop in the risk of clot-related strokes, and 19% decline in hemorrhagic strokes.

In contrast, study author Hiroyasu Iso, MD, PHD, of the University of Tsukuba in Ibaraki, Japan, and colleagues say that high levels of saturated fatty acids -- those found in meats and dairy products -- seemed to increase the risk of stroke. But this association disappeared after adjusting for these other, healthy types of fatty acids.

Researchers say linoleic acid may work to reduce stroke risk by a variety of potential ways, such as lowering blood pressure, improving glucose tolerance, lowering cholesterol levels, and improving blood circulation.

Their findings appear in the August issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.