Oatmeal Instead of Eggs and Toast Linked to Lowered Stroke Risk

By Lisa Rapaport

December 26, 2019

(Reuters Health) - People who eat oatmeal for breakfast instead of eggs and white toast may be lowering their risk of stroke as well, a Danish study suggests.

Consuming breakfast every day, and oatmeal in particular, has long been linked to reduced stroke risk. But research to date hasn't offered a clear picture of how substituting oatmeal for other common breakfast foods like eggs, toast, or yogurt might impact stroke risk, the study team notes in the journal Stroke.

For the current study, researchers examined dietary data on about 55,000 adults in Denmark who were 56 years old, on average, and had no history of stroke. At the start of the study period, participants consumed an average of 2.1 servings of eggs, 3 servings of white bread, 1 serving of yogurt, and only 0.1 serving of oatmeal each week.

Median follow-up was 13.4 years, and during the study period, 2,260 people had an ischemic stroke.

Using Cox proportional hazards models, the researchers estimated that hypothetical replacement of one serving of either eggs or white bread with one serving of oatmeal would yield 4% lower risk of stroke compared to someone who stayed with eggs or bread for breakfast, and a 5% lower risk of ischemic stroke caused by blockages in small arteries specifically.

Eating oatmeal instead of yogurt didn't appear to impact stroke risk.

"Our results indicate that shifting more people to choose oatmeal instead of white bread or eggs might be wise for population-level prevention of stroke, but the modest association means that for individuals, it is quite possible that other factors might be more important," said senior study author Christina Dahm of Aarhus University in Denmark.

While the study wasn't designed to prove whether or how oatmeal might lower stroke risk, it's possible that oats do this by helping to lower cholesterol, Dahm said by email.

"Cholesterol is a risk factor for ischemic strokes, and our results were stronger for ischemic stroke, which could indicate that the cholesterol-lowering effect of eating oats may have long-term impact on risk of ischemic stroke," Dahm added.

People in the study who ate more eggs and white bread tended also to have overall less healthy eating habits than people who ate more oatmeal, the authors note.

"Perhaps patients who eat oatmeal take better care of themselves in other ways, and this accounts for the observed effect," said Dr. Michael D. Hill, a researcher at the University of Calgary, in Alberta, Canada, who wasn't involved in the study.

"If true, this would mean that eating oatmeal just identifies a population of people who are healthy, rather than having a direct effect on the pathological processes leading to stroke," Dr. Hill said by email.

Portion sizes and overall diet quality are also important for stroke prevention, said Dr. Amytis Towfighi of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles.

"This study provides additional support of a Mediterranean diet, which includes daily consumption of whole grains," Dr. Towfighi, who wasn't involved in the study, said by email.

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/2rtckRg Stroke, online December 12, 2019.