Special Diet may Positively Affect the Genetic Risk of Stroke

By: Alere Staff
Publication Date: Thu, 05/01/2014

A recent study of over 7,000 people who have a type of gene called TCF7L2 may be linked to a 40% increase in the risk of developing a stroke.3 This gene can be inherited from one or both parents and is the same gene that can predict if someone is genetically predisposed to developing type 2 diabetes.1,2,3,4

In the study, more than 7,000 participants were randomly split into 3 separate groups. One group ate a Mediterranean diet high in extra virgin olive oil, while a second group ate a Mediterranean diet high in nuts, and the third was a control group who ate a non-Mediterranean low-fat diet.1,2,3,4

Over the 5 year study, 130 strokes occured.3,4 Of some of the people who experienced a stroke, it was found that if they inherited the gene from both parents, they were 3 times more likely to suffer a stroke.2,3 The researchers also saw higher rate of stroke in TCF7L2 patients in the control group compared with patients who didn't have the genetic variation. There were no increased risks for patients with this variant in either of the Mediterranean diet groups.1,2,3,4

In some earlier reports of this study, people who stayed with either of the Mediterranean diets had reduced carotid plaque, improved cognitive function, reduced cardiovascular events by about half, and also lowered new-onset type 2 diabetes by 50% compared to the low-fat study group.4

Whether you are aware of your genetic risk or not, making certain dietary changes can help decrease your potential risk for developing a stroke.1,2,3,4 Unlike many diets, the Mediterranean diet isn’t particularly low in fat; it’s the type of fat that makes all the difference. Healthy choices include plant fats while animal fats are not recommended.

The Mediterranean diet includes a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, legumes, yogurt, cheese, and complex carbohydrates. Most animal protein comes from moderate amounts of fish, poultry, and eggs, with very little red meat. Olive oil is the primary source of fat, and is used widely in cooking.3

  1. Corella D, et al. Mediterranean diet reduces the adverse effect of the TCF7L2-rs7903146 polymorphism on cardiovascular risk factors and stroke incidence. Diabetes Care 2013.
  2. Fiore, K. Special Diet Quells Genetic Risk of Stroke. http://www.medpagetoday.com/Endocrinology/Diabetes/40958. Accessed April 17, 2014.
  3. Barclay, R. Mediterranean Diet Eliminates Genetic Risk of Stroke. http://www.healthline.com/health-news/aging-diet-counteracts-genetic-risk-of-stroke-081313. Accessed April 17, 2014.
  4. Anderson, P. Mediterranean Diet May Reverse Genetic Risk for Stroke. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/809684. Accessed April 17, 2014.