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ENGLEMED HEALTH NEWS - 20/2/09

Fast-food outlets linked to stroke

Friday February 20th, 2009

By Jane Collingwood

Risk of stroke seems to be linked to the number of fast-food restaurants in a neighbourhood, researchers reported today.

A team led by Dr Lewis Morgenstern of the University of Michigan, USA, examined figures from an ongoing project which identified 1,247 strokes in Nueces County, Texas, between 2000 and 2003.

Fast-food restaurants were defined as having at least two of these four characteristics: rapid service, takeaway service, limited or no wait staff, and payment required before receiving food.

The team found that people in areas with the highest number of fast-food restaurants were 13 per cent more likely to suffering ischemic strokes than those living in areas with the lowest numbers.

Taking into account demographic and socioeconomic factors, they calculate that the risk of stroke increased by one per cent for each fast-food restaurant in a neighbourhood.

Presenting the results at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference, they point out that this is simply an association - it does not prove that fast-food restaurants increase stroke risk.

Dr Morgenstern said: "The data show a true association. What we don't know is whether fast food actually increased the risk because of its contents, or whether fast-food restaurants are a marker of unhealthy neighbourhoods with a lack of healthy food options."

Similar studies must be carried out in other cities, he says, in order to confirm and expand the results. But Dr Morgenstern suggests that communities with a lot of fast-food restaurants "are prime areas for stroke prevention programs".

* Following healthy lifestyle advice can significantly cut the risk of stroke for both men and women, British researchers reported today.

Dr Phyo Myint of the University of East Anglia, UK, and colleagues investigated the combined impact of smoking, exercise, alcohol intake and vitamin C levels on stroke risk.

They analysed figures on 20,040 men and women living in Norfolk.

In an editorial, Dr Matthew Giles of John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK, says that although stroke is preventable via lifestyle, "a huge shift in behaviour will be needed to achieve this" in the general population.

Myint, P. K. et al. Combined effect of health behaviours and risk of first ever stroke in 20 040 men and women over 11 years? follow-up in Norfolk cohort of European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC Norfolk): prospective population study. The British Medical Journal, 2009;338:b349.

The American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference was held in San Diego, California, USA, from February 19-20, 2009.

Tags: Brain & Neurology | General Health | North America | Nutrition & Healthy Eating | UK News

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