Diet Rich In Fruits And Vegetables Could Cut Risk Of Stroke Worldwide
May 9, 2014

Diet Rich In Fruits And Vegetables Could Cut Risk Of Stroke Worldwide

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

A new meta-analysis of 20 studies published over the past 19 years has helped researchers form the conclusion that eating more fruits and vegetables could reduce the worldwide risk of stroke. The combined studies involved more than 760,000 men and women who had 16,981 strokes.

Publishing the study results in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, the researchers found that global stroke risk decreased by 32 percent with every 200 grams of fruit consumed each day and 11 percent with every 200 grams of vegetables consumed each day.

"Improving diet and lifestyle is critical for heart and stroke risk reduction in the general population," said Yan Qu, MD, the study's senior author, director of the intensive care unit at Qingdao Municipal Hospital and professor at the Medical College of Qingdao University in Qingdao, China.

Our bodies receive calories and energy from macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat), but our bodies also need micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, which naturally come from fruit and vegetables.

"In particular, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is highly recommended because it meets micronutrient and macronutrient and fiber requirements without adding substantially to overall energy requirements," added Qu.

Studies have shown that high fruit and vegetable consumption can lower blood pressure and improve microvascular function. It also has favorable effects on body mass index, waist circumference, cholesterol, inflammation and oxidative stress, note the researchers.

The beneficial effects of consuming fruits and vegetables applied consistently to men and women, stroke outcome and by type of stroke; and researchers found no significant difference in the effect on age (younger or older than 55). Also, the team adjusted the findings for several factors, including smoking, alcohol use, blood pressure, cholesterol, physical activity and other dietary variables.

The meta-analysis combined the study results of six US studies, eight European studies and six Asian studies and determined, based on the overall results of these 20 studies, that fruit and vegetable consumption remains low worldwide, especially among low- and middle-income countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that by increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables up to 600 grams each day could reduce the risk of ischemic stroke by 19 percent globally.

Stroke is the leading cause of death in China, with an estimated 1.7 million people dying in 2010. It is the number four cause of death in the US and the leading cause of disability.

The research team found that citrus fruits, apples and pears, and leafy vegetables were the best at reducing the overall risk of stroke.

“The effect of other types of fruit and vegetables on stroke risk still needs to be confirmed,” Qu said in a statement, cited by Reuters.

The team cannot say for certain that eating fruits and vegetables caused fewer strokes among the study participants. There could be other factors that influenced the results – such as people who eat more fruit and vegetables generally lead healthier lives overall.

"It doesn’t surprise me too much in that it seems to confirm what a lot of other studies have shown," Dr. David A. Miller, director of the Advanced Primary Stroke Center at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, told Reuters.

"We still don’t know if there is anything inherent in the fruits and vegetables or whether it’s their effect on blood pressure… It’s a chicken and egg type of thing," added Miller, who was not involved in the meta-analysis or any of the studies used in the meta-analysis.

Miller pointed out that the researchers also found people who controlled other risk factors – such as weight and smoking – had the lowest risk of stroke. "Eating fruits and vegetables is helpful, but it’s not the only thing," he said.

The American Heart Association advises that adults should eat four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily. A diet rich in a variety of colors and types is the best way of getting important nutrients that most people don’t get enough of, including vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.