Stroke Risk Drops if you Eat an Apple a Day

November 12, 2012

Stroke Risk Drops if you Eat an Apple a Day

White Flesh Fruit and Vegetables Reduces Risk of Stroke

A study has just been published by a group of Dutch researchers who are investigating if there is an association between the risk of stroke and eating different colored fruits. It appears that perhaps eating more white fleshed fruit and vegetable may cut your risk of having a stroke.

The study took information, in the form of questionnaires, from over 20,000 people aged between 20 and 65. The questionnaire which was self completed asked about foods eaten over the past year. None of these people had any earlier diagnosis of stroke or heart disease. The researchers then followed up 10 years later.

Throughout the 10 year period 233 participants had a stroke. When comparing people’s questionnaires it was found that those who consumed more white fleshed fruit and vegetables lowered their risk of stroke by 52% when compared to those who ate very little white colored fruit or vegetables.

An Apple a Day can Reduce Your Risk of Stroke by up to 40%

It was identified by the researchers that the risk of stroke dropped by 9% for every 25g of white fleshed fruit and vegetable eaten per day. A quarter of an average size apple is about 25g to 30g.

Linda M. Oude Griep, MSc, of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, one of the researchers says, “To prevent stroke, it may be useful to consume considerable amounts of white fruits and vegetables”. Eating an apple everyday “is an easy way to increase white fruits and vegetable intake,” according to her, but she also points out that other vegetables that are not white are also very important because they can reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases. She finishes by saying, “it’s important to eat a lot of different fruits and vegetables”.

Fruit and vegetables classified as white include apples, pears, bananas, cucumbers, chicory and cauliflower. However potatoes are not included, they are classified as starch.

Beneficial ‘Phytochemicals’ can be seen in the Color of Fruit and Vegetables

Phytochemicals are found in fruit and vegetables and are beneficial when eaten. Carotenoids and flavonoids are common types of phytochemicals and the color of the part of the fruit or vegetable which is eaten shows what phytochemicals are present.

Four colors were selected to form the groups by the researchers. Green, which consisted of vegetables like cabbage, sprouts and lettuce. Orange and yellow was predominantly citrus fruits like lemons, oranges and grapefruit. Red and purple consisted of mostly red vegetables like onions, beetroot and cabbage. In the white group pears and apples made up over half of the contents.

Earlier research investigating fruit and vegetables has tended to look at the nutritional aspects of the food, it has also addressed characteristics such as antioxidants available, colors of the part of the plant which is eaten and any links between botanical family groupings.

This study is different because the color groupings were the area of investigation with respect to risk of having a stroke. But the researchers agree that it is still early days and findings will have to stand up to rigorous examination. Oude Griep sums up by saying, “It may be too early for physicians to advise patients to change their dietary habits based on these initial findings”.

The study and an accompanying editorial have recently been published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The United States Preventive Health Services presently advocates that people eat five different types of vegetables daily. The descriptions of the vegetables are; dark green, legume, red or orange, starchy and all other types of vegetable.

An editorial released with the study and written by Heike Wersching, MD, MSc, of the University of Munster in Germany urges caution when reading the study. His reason for doing this is because although the study group was large the data gathering relied on the participants’ memories. The method of collecting data was by questionnaire, with questions about what people ate. The human memory is not the most reliable when one has to gather data.

Wersching also points out that the results could also be caused by people living a ‘generally healthy lifestyle’ and who eat ample amounts of fruit and vegetables. He does accept that if the findings can be repeated in further tests then it is now time for a clinical trial investigating the benefits of an “apple a day”.

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