More Fruits, Veggies May Cut Stroke Risk Worldwide

May 13, 2014 American Heart Association

Eating more fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of stroke worldwide, according to new research.

Researchers found that stroke risk decreased by 32 percent with every 200 grams of fruit consumed daily and 11 percent with every 200 grams of vegetables consumed daily.

The findings came from a compilation of 20 studies published in the last 19 years, providing data from 760,629 men and women who had 16,981 strokes.

“Improving diet and lifestyle is critical for heart and stroke risk reduction in the general population,” said Yan Qu, M.D., 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. “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.”

Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats that give our bodies energy, and micronutrients provide vitamins and minerals.

High fruit and vegetable consumption may reduce stroke risk by lowering blood pressure and improving microvascular function, researchers said. It also has a good effect on body mass index, waist circumference, cholesterol, inflammation and oxidative stress, factors that can affect stroke risk.

Study authors adjusted for factors like smoking, alcohol, blood pressure, cholesterol, physical activity, body mass index and other differences in diet.

Low fruit and vegetable consumption is prevalent worldwide, especially in low- and middle-income countries, said researchers. Increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables up to 600 grams a day could reduce the burden of stroke caused by clots by 19 percent globally, according to the World Health Organization.

In China, stroke is the leading cause of death, claiming an estimated 1.7 million people in 2010. In the United States, stroke is the No. 4 cause of death and a leading cause of disability.

The American Heart Association advises the average adult to eat four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. A diet rich in a variety of colors and types of vegetables and fruits is a way of getting important nutrients that most people don’t get enough of, including vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. They are also naturally low in saturated fat.

The article was published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

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