Do Vegans Have Higher Stroke Risk

Some time ago a study published by EPIC-Oxford sparked worldwide debates when they said vegetarian and vegans had 20% higher rates of total stroke than meat-eaters.

If you’ve been anything like me and have been reading peer review studies in the last decade or so, you’d realize that a lot of them do give the date but not always the right kind of data or calculations. Most of them do change their words and confuse an average person but, when you do dive in to read the whole study you find things that make the unsaid things a lot clear.

So I'll try to explain what went wrong and how the media took the story on a wild ride but, to understand that first, we need to look at what is a stroke?

Image by Narupon Promvichai from Pixabay

What is a stroke?

There are two types of strokes. First, when there’s a blockage in the blood supply to the brain. This is called Ischemic stroke, This is the most common type of stroke. 8 out of 10 strokes are of this kind.

Ischemic strokes usually happen when fatty deposits in the arteries break off and travel to the brain or when a poor blood flow from an irregular heartbeat starts to form a blood clot.

Second, when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and bleeds. This is called a hemorrhagic stroke. Although this is a less common type of stroke, this can be deadly.

Hemorrhagic strokes happen when a blood vessel in the brain balloons up and bursts, or a weakened blood vessel starts to leak. The causes are related to uncontrolled high blood pressure and taking too many blood thinner medicines.

This rupture or blockage prevents blood and oxygen from reaching the brain tissues causing a life-threatening situation.

What causes a stroke?

Now that we know exactly what a stroke is let's see some of the most common causes of strokes around the world.

High blood pressure - One of the most common reasons for stroke. Doctors call it hypertension. If your blood pressure is typically 140/90 or higher. This is something you should keep an eye on.

Tobacco - Smoking or chewing tobacco raises blood pressure and the odds of having a stroke. Cigarette smoke also causes a fatty build-up in the main neck artery. It also thickens the blood making it more likely to clot.

Heart Disease - This includes defective heart valves as well as irregular heartbeat. These symptoms are more common in the elderly and are the cause of quarter strokes. Other heart issues can be clogged arteries from fatty deposits over time.

Diabetes - Even though type 2 diabetes can be reversed with a vegan diet. Many people who have high diabetes damage their blood vessels, which increases the odds of a stroke. If you have a stroke when the blood sugar levels are very high, the injury to the brain can be greater.

Weight and Exercise - The chances of having a stroke are higher if you’re overweight. Keeping a healthy weight and exercising a little daily can help reduce the weight.

Medications - Blood-thinning drugs, which are used to prevent blood clots, can sometimes make a stroke more likely through bleeding. Hormone therapy and birth control pills may also make the odds go up.

Age and Genetics - Although anyone can have a stroke, even babies in the womb. Generally, the chances start to double every decade after the age of 55.

Strokes can also run in families. You and your family members might have a tendency to get high blood pressure or diabetes. Some rare disorders can also block blood flow to the brain.

Is there a really higher risk of stroke for vegans?

So let’s look at the data provided from the study itself and see what we can find.

Vegans and Vegetarians

The study had 16,254 Vegetarians and Vegans combined. The number of vegans in the study was really low. That the data found on vegans could not be sufficient.

The study also combined vegans and vegetarians together which can have a very big effect in finding as the data from vegans and vegetarians is mixed together, not providing enough evidence as to what the clear picture is.

Adjusted numbers vs nonadjusted

To start with the numbers, as you can see in the table above. The number of meat-eaters was 438,418 out of which 678 people reported having a stroke. Out of 278,383 vegetarians, 258 people reported having a stroke.

Now if we run the numbers without any adjustments we can see that 1 person out of every 646.6 has had a stroke for meat-eaters. For vegetarians, 1 person out of 1,079 had a stroke.

Factors like age, sex, alcohol consumption, the state of well-being were adjusted to find the likely risk of stroke. The adjusted numbers can be off by some margin in doing so.

Healthy eating

Dietary Fiber

We still don’t have a clear answer for Vegans as they were very low in number. So we just have the data for vegetarian groups which also contained vegans. Most of the vegetarians were slightly younger than meat eaters but, here is something that is a clear red flag that is caused because of mixing vegans and vegetarians together. The amount of dietary fiber (g/day) for vegetarians is just 22.1 which is way low for any healthy eating vegan. Even if we assume that one consumes just 1 cup of beans it still has 30 grams of fiber in it.

So either the people were eating a lot of processed foods or the data is inaccurate because of not having enough vegans.


The salt intake for the vegetarian group was also at 2,664mg which was just slightly lower than the meat-eating group which had 2,773mg. The recommended intake sits at 2,300mg which for the vegetarian group is still 300mg above the limit.

The balance between sodium (salt) and potassium also plays a big part in terms of health. Although the data on potassium is hard to get, a healthy vegan diet contains plenty of potassium.

🧢 Tags - #Vegan_Blog