Levels of some small molecules called metabolites in the body may affect your risk of stroke, a new analysis suggests.
Metabolites come from the food people eat, and they cause chemical processes within the bodies and microbes. An analysis of previously published studies found that the levels of 10 of these are linked to the risk of stroke.
These include lipids, fatty acids, amino acids, and carbohydrates. Levels of metabolites can change in response to factors such as disease, genetics, or the environment and are indicators of overall health, the researchers noted.
"With stroke being a leading cause of death and serious long-term disability worldwide, researchers are looking for new ways to identify high-risk patients, determine the causes of stroke and develop prevention strategies," said researcher Dr. Dina Vojinovic, of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. "For our analysis, we examined a large series of metabolites to gain new insights into the metabolic changes that may happen leading up to a stroke."
For the study, Vojinovic's team looked at seven studies, which included nearly 39,000 people. In all, nearly 1,800 people suffered a stroke during the two to 10 years of follow-up.
In the study, published online Dec. 2 in the journal Neurology, the researchers found 10 metabolites were associated with the risk of stroke.
The amino acid histidine was the one most tied to lower stroke risk. Histidine comes from meat, eggs, dairy, and grains. It is an essential amino acid that helps maintain life and was tied with a lower risk of stroke.
"Histidine can be converted to histamine, which has been shown to have a strong effect on the dilation of the blood vessels," Vojinovic explained in a journal news release. "It also functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain and has been shown in some studies to reduce blood pressure and inflammation, so this finding is not surprising."
With every one standard deviation increase in levels of histidine, people had a 10% lower risk of stroke, the researchers found.
They also found the high-density lipoprotein cholesterols, HDL and HDL2 — the "good" cholesterols — were linked with a lower risk of stroke.
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or "bad" cholesterol, and triglycerides were tied with a higher risk of stroke.
The metabolite pyruvate, which is made when cells break down sugar, also increased the risk of stroke. With every one standard deviation increase in pyruvate, the risk for stroke rose 13%, the researchers found.
"Pyruvate is critical for supplying energy to a cell and has been shown in previous studies to decrease inflammation, while in contrast, to also increase a person's risk for cardiovascular disease, so more research is needed," Vojinovic said. "Our analysis provides new insights into how the risk of stroke may be affected on the molecular level."