High protein diets may protect against stroke, especially if they contain a lot of fish, scientists say. Researchers analysed the findings of seven diet studies involving a total of 254,489 participants whose progress was monitored for an average of 14 years.
Those who ate the most protein were 20 per cent less likely to suffer a stroke than those consuming the lowest levels.
For every 20 additional grams of protein eaten per day, stroke risk reduced by around 26 per cent. Study author Dr Xinfeng Liu, from Nanjing University School of Medicine in China, said: "The amount of protein that led to the reduced risk was moderate - equal to 20 grams per day."
Additional, larger studies are needed before definitive recommendations can be made, but the evidence is compelling."
An estimated 1.4 million stroke deaths could be prevented worldwide each year by higher protein consumption, he said.But the findings, published in the journal Neurology, did not support increased consumption of red meat, which has been associated with greater stroke risk."
These results indicate that stroke risk may be reduced by replacing red meat with other protein sources, such as fish," Dr Liu said. But animal protein appeared to be more protective than vegetable protein.
One explanation for the effect may be that protein lowers blood pressure, Dr Liu added.