Vegetarians & Vegans Might Have A Higher Stroke Risk

  • 12 months ago
5 minute read.
Vegetarians & Vegans Might Have A Higher Stroke Risk

Disclaimer: This article does not intend to mean that a vegetarian diet is poor for health. The message is: A well-planned diet and a wide variety of foods can help reduce the risk of stroke.

According to WebMD, a new study suggests that vegetarians and vegans may have an increased risk of stroke compared to non-vegetarians because of the higher levels of saturated fat in vegan/vegetarian diets, leading to stroke.

This supports previous studies on the same topic, including research showing that vegans may be at a greater risk of death from stroke than meat-eaters are.

However, not all vegetarian diets are equal – some can even be as unhealthy as some meat-based diets if they’re high in saturated fats and cholesterol or low in necessary nutrients like vitamins B12 and D and zinc.

So what exactly is it about vegetarian diets that might be responsible for the higher stroke risk?

Why are vegetarian diets (unbalanced) followers at risk of developing brain disease or stroke?

Studies have found that people on vegetarian diets are at an increased risk of developing strokes and brain disease. While vegetarian diets are intended to reduce our likelihood of developing heart disease, they can be highly harmful to our brains.

What do the studies claim?

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that vegetarians have a 24% higher risk of developing brain disease and a 25% higher risk of stroke. Vegetarians have lower vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids than meat-eaters; both these nutrients are linked to lower risk for brain disease, but little is known about their connection with stroke incidence or survival rates.

Role of nutrition for brain health

Nutrition plays an essential role in keeping the brain fit and decreasing the threat of many illnesses like stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, B9, and B12, calcium, magnesium, fiber, etc. are some of the crucial nutrients for brain health.

But, vegetarians and vegans might have low levels of some nutrients such as omega-3 and vitamin B12, which are higher in animal foods. The deficiency of these nutrients can raise the chance of stroke and other brain disorders.

How can non-veg sources help your brain stay healthy?

Well, yes. Like there are many benefits of eating a vegetarian diet, there are also many benefits of consuming non-veg food sources.

Eating fish can keep your brain sharp and fight off brain disease, whereas eating eggs helps your brain grow!

They are abundant in brain health-promoting nutrients like vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein.

Consider trying a balanced diet that’s packed with vitamins and nutrients from meat, fruit, and veggies; you won’t regret it.

Sample Balanced Veg-Diet Plan




Early Morning

Warm Water with Lemon

 + Soaked Almonds + Walnuts

+ Roasted Flaxseed Powder

1 Glass 

5 No. + 2 No.

1 Teaspoon


Breakfast Cereal / Oats with Hemp Seeds / Steamed Idli (with added Nutritional Yeast)

 + Low Fat Milk

 + Seasonal Fruits

1 Bowl / 3 pieces 


1 Glass 

1 Whole 

Mid-Morning Snack

Sprouts / Fruit Yogurt

1 Bowl


Green Salad with added Flaxseeds

+ Lentil / Legume Curry

+ Seasonal Vegetable

+ Multigrain Chapati

+ Vegetable Raita

1 Bowl

1 Bowl

1 Bowl

2 No.

1 Bowl

Evening Snack

 Berry Blast Smoothie / Tofu Mushroom Miso Soup

 + Roasted Nuts and Seeds/ Tofu Salad / Whole Fruit

1 Glass/ 1 Bowl 

1 Fistful / 1 Bowl 


Broccoli Vegetable Salad / Vegetable Salad with Curd Dressing

+ Green Leafy Vegetable / Mixed Green Sambhar

+ Missi Roti / Multigrain Chapati / Ragi Dosa

1 Bowl 


1 Bowl

2 No.

Post Dinner

Low Fat Milk + Pumpkin Spice Candied Walnuts

1 Glass  + 2 No.

Want any changes in this diet plan? Connect with a nutritionist to get this diet plan customized as per your preferences.

Diet Plan

Alternatives and sources of important nutrients are required who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

People who follow vegetarian or vegan diets may need supplements for essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, omega-3, and vitamin B12.

Stick to a well-balanced diet

A well-balanced diet including foods rich in these nutrients can prevent nutrient deficiencies that can lead to health problems.

Consume dairy products

Dairy products like milk, curd, cottage cheese, whole grains, millets, legumes, and shitake mushrooms, are some of the vegetarian sources of vitamin B12 that will help meet daily vitamin B12 requirements.

Add Omega 3

Also, get your dose of omega-3 from vegetarian sources like almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, olive oil, mustard oil, peanut oil, leafy green vegetables, soybean, etc.

Expert advice

If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, talk with your doctor about any vitamin or mineral supplements you might need. Discussing your eating habits with your dietitian is also important because some people who don’t eat meat might have low levels of certain nutrients like vitamin B12, D, and omega-3 fatty acids without realizing it.

A healthy plant-based diet is associated with lower stroke risk:

  • Plant protein sources include beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
  • Dairy products are also a good source of calcium (milk and cheese), but vegetarians can get calcium from other plant sources, such as broccoli, green leafy vegetables, seeds like sesame seeds, fortified soy beverages, etc.
  • Legumes such as beans and lentils are an important source of iron, folate, and zinc.
  • Other good sources of folate include asparagus, spinach, avocados, and broccoli.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggested that healthy plant-based diets rich in foods such as leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and legumes can reduce stroke by up to 10%.


Vitamin B12, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, play a key role in maintaining brain health. Recent research has shown that low levels of B12 can increase homocysteine levels, and high homocysteine levels have been linked with an increased risk of stroke and dementia.

Expert advice

It's not a specific diet but, a lack of nutrients that may increase the risk of stroke. You can't go wrong if your plant-based diet is balanced. In fact, a balanced diet helps reduce the risk of other diseases (Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease) as well.

Both vegetarians and non-vegetarians need to get enough vitamin B12 from their diet or supplements.

Since, vitamin B12 is found more in animal food sources—including meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products—so vegetarians who don’t take steps to supplement their diets with vitamins (and consume vitamin B12 and omega-2 rich foods and those fortified with these nutrients) are more likely to be deficient than non-vegetarians.


Are vegans diet followers also at risk of developing heart disease?

No, vegans are much more likely to have lower blood pressure. People following a vegan diet have significantly lower blood pressure and body mass index than vegetarians or meat-eaters. It seems that one major advantage of plant-based diets is that they keep our hearts healthy.

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