By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – Many people adopt a vegetarian lifestyle to help reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, but a new study published in the BMJ finds people who avoid meat all together may be at a higher risk of stroke.

Researchers in the U.K. looked at about 48 thousand adults over 18 years. They found that vegetarians, vegans, and pescatarians (people who eat fish but not meat) had a lower risk of ischemic heart disease, like heart attacks. But vegetarians had a 20% higher risk of stroke compared to meat eaters.

It’s not clear why vegetarians may suffer more strokes. Perhaps it is due to lower levels of certain nutrients. But experts warn this was just one study and that the relative risk for stroke was small.

Dr. Mallika Marshall