Chicago - Men who eat more fatty foods may get pot bellies and heart attacks, but they'll have fewer strokes, according to a surprising new study from Harvard.
The scientists say today the results "raise the possibility" that current dietary guidelines could increase the overall risk of ischemic stroke.
But they also add much more research is needed before any changes can be made in dietary recommendations.
Ischemic strokes, caused by blocked blood vessels leading to the brain, account for about 80 percent of all strokes.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was conducted at the Harvard Medical School on 832 middle- aged men enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study. The men were questioned about their eating habits in the late 1960s, and then monitored for strokes for two decades.
The investigators found that every 3 percent increase in the amount of fat in the total diet led to a 15 percent decrease in the risk of stroke.
The kinds of fat that lowered risk included saturated fats, found in meat and dairy foods, and monounsaturated fats, found mostly in nuts and olive oil.
Dr. Philip A. Wolf, an author of the study, calls the finding "perplexing," and at the same time cautions that this is not a license to eat cheesburgers.
Wolf says, "You'd need a lot more information before anyone would dare make any changes" in current recommendations, limiting fat to 30 percent of total calories and saturated fat to 10 percent.
Wolf points out that high-fat diets are known to cause other problems, like obesity, cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Roger Sherwin and Dr. Thomas Price of the University of Maryland in Baltimore say the study supports the Mediterranean diet, "which has low levels of saturated fat but high levels of monounsaturated fat."
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