Older women who eat high amounts of the kind of fat found in fried foods and baked goods face a greater risk of stroke than women who eat lower fat diets, a US study suggested on Thursday.
However, aspirin use could cut those risks, said the researchers from University of North Carolina whose findings are published in the Annals of Neurology.
The data came from the largest study to date of post-menopausal women and their eating habits, and included 87,025 women between the ages 50 and 79 who were generally in good health at the time of enrollment.
Women who reported eating diets high in trans-fatty acids, or 6.1 grams a day, showed a 39 percent greater incidence of stroke due to a blocked artery than women who ate 2.2 grams per day of such fats.
The researchers did not find any significant links between stroke risk and how much total fat the women consumed, or their level of dietary cholesterol.
But aspirin use was shown to slim down the link between trans fat intake and stroke, which affects nearly 800,000 people in the United States per year and is the fourth leading cause of US death.
"Our findings confirm that postmenopausal women with higher trans fat intake had an elevated risk of ischemic stroke, but aspirin use may reduce the adverse effects," said lead author Ka He of the UNC School of Public Health.
"We recommend following a diet low in trans fat and adding an aspirin regimen to help women reduce their risk of stroke, specifically following the onset of menopause."
Trans fat is on the decline in the United States due to a public health and legislation campaign which has banned its use in many fast food restaurants and in food preparation.
But it hasn't disappeared altogether.
"Trans fats are rare in living nature, but can commonly occur in foods as a result of food processing called partial hydrogenation when a liquid vegetable oil is turned into a solid fat," said Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York.
Copperman, who was not involved in the study, added that the behaviors of women who ate lots of trans fat were also unhealthy, including decreased physical activity, smoking, and higher levels of diabetes.
"Encouraging and supporting women consume a balanced diet avoiding trans fat and including healthy oils and daily physical activity can be a major step in preventing stroke and other lifestyle related diseases," she said.