Harvard Women's Health Watch

Could protein lower stroke risk?

The body needs adequate protein for many reasons, but could stroke protection be one of them? Researchers in China analyzed the results of seven studies, which together included about 250,000 people ranging in age from their 30s to their 80s. For every extra 20 grams of protein the participants ate each day, their stroke risk dropped by an impressive-sounding 26%, according to results published online June 11 in the journal Neurology.

"If everyone's protein intake were at this level, that would translate to more than 1.4 million fewer deaths from stroke each year worldwide, plus a decreased level of disability from stroke," study author Dr. Xinfeng Liu, of Nanjing University School of Medicine in China, said in a statement.

These results, while compelling, don't constitute the final word on protein and stroke risk, especially since other studies haven't found the same effect. It's still important to eat protein for other reasons, however, including to preserve lean body mass. The current recommendation for women is to eat 46 grams of protein each day. Ideally, you'll want to get most of that protein from sources other than red meat, such as fish or tofu. (For ideas on healthy protein sources and amounts, visit cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/protein.html.)

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