HindustanTimes ePaper IF YOU are vegetarian and under 40 years of age, make sure you get the right intake of B-vitamins, especially vitamin 812 - or else you could be at the risk of suffering a stroke. Ongoing research at the Bangalore-based National lnstitute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) has linked vitamin B deficiencies commonly seen in vegetarians, as well as genetic defects that cause levels of a chemical called homocysteine to increase in the body - to the alarming incidence of strokes in young Indians. Indians aged 40 or below are up to 10 times more likely to be affected by strokes than their counterparts in the West; in one-third of the cases, they don't suffer from any known risk factors like hypertension and diabetes. The study, funded by the department of biotechnology, examined the presence of homocysteine, an amino acid, in 258 young stroke patients, as well as the same number of control subjects. Elevated homocysteine levels are known to predispose one to stroke. But so far, little is known about the wider implications of this phenomenon among young Indians. The team, led by NIMHANS director D. Nagaraja, found that high homocysteine levels increased the risk of stroke 9-10 fold among young people. In about 40 per cent of the stroke patients studied, the levels were found to be high due to deficiencies in vitamins 812, B6 or folate. In a quarter of the cases, NIMHANS' study collaborator, the National Brain Research Centre, Manesar, found gene mutations responsible. In 5 per cent of cases, both vitamin B deficiencies as well as gene mutations were present. The team is still investigating the cause of the elevation in the rest of the cases. Says Nagaraja, "We are looking at how genetic and nutritional factors independently or complementarily contribute to strokes in young people, and by what mechanism high homocysteine levels cause premature stroke." He adds, "While an entirely vegetarian diet isn't a risk factor for strokes, vegetarians must give special attention to a high vitamin B12 intake." Animal foods are rich in vitamin B12, but vegetarians can include sufficient quantities of yogurt and buttermilk in their diet in order not to be deficient in it, says Rita Christopher, additional professor, department of neurochemistry, NIMHANS. An earlier NIMHANS study on a type of stroke called cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT), seen 12 times more commonly in young, south Indian women immediately after child birth than their Western counterparts, found that certain postpartum rituals dramatically increased their CVT risk. While gene defects alone do not significantly increase the risk, in women with such defects, tying a scarf around the head after delivery increases the CVT risk 19-fold, and the restriction of fluids increases it 9-fold.