January 26, 2006

Fruit and vegetables cut stroke risk: study

By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) - Eating more than the recommended five
portions of fruit and vegetables a day can further reduce the
odds of suffering a stroke, researchers said on Friday.

An analysis of eight studies that looked into the impact of
fruit and vegetables on stroke showed that the more healthy
foods people consumed, the less likely they were to have a
stroke, which is a leading cause of disability and death.

"For the first time we have shown a quantitative
relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and
stroke," said Professor Graham MacGregor of St George's medical
school at the University of London.

"It has been known that fruit and vegetables seem to reduce
stroke but it wasn't known how much they did it by," he added
in an interview.

In the analysis of research involving more than 257,500
people from Japan, Europe and the United States, the scientists
found that people who ate more than five servings of fruit and
vegetables a day had a 26 percent reduction in stroke compared
to individuals who consumed less than three servings daily.

"It is a very important finding because it really shows
that the quantity of fruit and vegetables you should be eating
is more than five a day," MacGregor said.

The average fruit and vegetable consumption a day in most
developed countries is 3-5 servings. A serving of vegetables is
77 grams (2.7 ounces) and 80 grams (2.8 ounces) for fruit,
according to MacGregor and his team.


Strokes are caused by a blockage in an artery leading to
the brain or bleeding in or around the brain. About 17 million
people die each year of cardiovascular diseases, particularly
heart attacks and strokes. High blood pressure, diabetes,
smoking, raised cholesterol, obesity and lack of exercise are
risk factors.

Fruit and vegetables are full of nutrients such as vitamin
C, beta carotene and potassium as well as plant proteins and
dietary fiber.

The researchers suspect that potassium is an important
factor in preventing stroke.

"We've know that if you give people addition potassium it
lowers blood pressure," said MacGregor, who reported the
research in The Lancet medical journal.

"By increasing to five servings a day from three you would
increase your potassium intake by about 50 percent," he added.

MacGregor said fruit and vegetables also are less
calorie-dense, have very little fat and contain antioxidants
which may also be beneficial.