September 6, 2013
In a manner similar to other vascular afflictions, the risk of succumbing to a potentially fatal or disabling stroke is largely dependent on lifestyle factors, most notably, diet. Vascular dysfunction, which sets the stage for a stroke later in life, slowly builds over the course of several decades; as our arteries become less elastic, blood pressure rises and the conditions for the formation of a thrombus increase, largely influenced by a diet packed with hydrogenated fats, refined carbohydrates and sugary treats. Most people have no idea they are at significant risk for a stroke until after falling victim to such a catastrophic event.
Fortunately, nutrition scientists have published a wealth of research that shows how we can dramatically lower the risk of stroke by making simple dietary modifications. A research study team from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston has released the results of a study explaining how changing diet can affect stroke risk. Publishing their results in the journal, Diabetes Care, the team has discovered that a gene variant strongly associated with development of type II diabetes appears to interact with a Mediterranean diet pattern to prevent stroke.
To conduct their study, scientists evaluated 7,018 men and women participating in the Prevencion con Dieta Mediterranea (PREDIMED) trial over a period of five years. The team wanted to determine if a Mediterranean or a low-fat controlled diet had an effect on the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and heart attack, and whether genetics played a part in this. Prior to beginning the study, participants completed a dietary questionnaire to determine compliance with a Mediterranean-style diet.
Mediterranean-style diet is shown to negate the genetic predisposition toward diabetes
Researchers found that a gene variant called Transcription Factor 7-like 2 (TCF7L2) was involved in glucose metabolism and can lead to the development of diabetes and heart disease. 14 percent of the study participants were found to be carriers of two copies of the gene variant, dramatically increasing their risk for diabetes. The team found that, within this highly susceptible group, stroke incidence was greatly reduced by eating a Mediterranean diet.
Lead study author, Dr. Jose Ordovas, concluded “,Being on the Mediterranean diet reduced the number of strokes in people with two copies of the variant… the food they ate appeared to eliminate any increased stroke susceptibility, putting them on an even playing field with people with one or no copies of the variant.”
Past studies have indicated that as many as two-thirds of the population may possess one or two genetic variants that predispose them to develop chronic illnesses including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Extensive research has demonstrated that diet and lifestyle modifications can negate or eliminate genetic disposition toward a particular disease, and the Mediterranean-style diet has repeatedly been shown to ameliorate the risk toward diabetes development and progression.