A new study from the University of California at San Diego found that people who use cotton fabric are actually more likely to die from certain types of heart attacks and stroke.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, also found that the risk of death from these causes increased with the use of cotton fabric.
“Our study is the first to look at whether cotton is linked to increased mortality in the U.S. population,” said the study’s lead author, Michael Schoenfeld, an epidemiologist at UCSD.
“The study provides a strong evidence that cotton fabric is associated with a significant increase in risk of mortality.”
Schoenfeld and his colleagues analyzed data from the National Death Index from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They found that cotton had a nearly 50 percent higher risk of dying than a non-cotton fabric, the cotton gauzy fabric.
“Our findings raise the question of whether cotton fabric actually provides a greater protection against heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems than other materials,” said Schoenfield.
“In other words, cotton may not provide a protective blanket for people who wear cotton.”
Researchers also examined the risk for heart attack and stroke among women who had a history of diabetes.
The women were also followed for 12 years, including after they started wearing cotton.
The researchers found that when the women were compared to those who never wore cotton, those who used cotton were at higher risk for death.
Schoenfield explained, “People who wear more cotton are at higher risks for all types of cardiovascular events, and cotton fabric appears to be a very significant factor in these risk increases.”
He also said that people are more likely than those who wear a noncotton material to die of other heart attacks.
“We found that noncognitive risk factors were significantly associated with mortality risk in women who used noncaring cotton fabric compared to women who never used cotton,” Schoenfields said.
“We believe that this is because cotton fabric may reduce cognitive decline associated with diabetes and stroke.”
“These findings indicate that cotton, which is a nonrenewable resource, is a strong and protective factor against the development of these conditions,” said Andrew Ressler, the lead author and professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University.
The study also found some potential explanations for the increase in deaths associated with cotton use.
“It could be that people in developed countries who are increasingly exposed to cotton fabric have developed more cardiovascular risk factors, which may make them more susceptible to cardiovascular disease,” Schönfeld said.
The findings have many researchers talking.
“[These findings] could have a substantial impact on the health of populations living in developing countries who rely on cotton,” Ressler said.
“For example, cotton could be a more important component of the fabric used to protect people from infection than traditional materials such as wool or polyester,” Schonenfeld added.
Ressler noted that cotton is already being used to manufacture medical products, but he added that the research needs to be done with more people.
“The goal is to get this research to a broader population before it becomes an epidemic, so that people have the information to make decisions about whether or not they want to wear cotton,” he said.
While there is no specific drug that can completely prevent heart attacks or strokes, the researchers said the findings could help them develop treatments to combat heart disease and stroke and may even lead to new treatments for people with heart disease.