Fruits and Veggies Help Protect Against Stroke

Heli J. Roy  |  3/21/2005 11:16:43 PM

It has been thought for some time that diet is related to strokes. LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Heli Roy says there’s now evidence that fruits and vegetables help protect against stroke.

In the July 2003 issue of "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," a large-scale study in Denmark established a link between diet and stroke incidents. From December 1993 through May 1997, more than 54,000 individuals who were discharged from hospitals were assessed for dietary intake and reason for hospitalization.

Data were collected on dietary intake of fruits and vegetables, red meat, omega-3 fatty acids, alcohol and cholesterol. Individuals were divided into five groups according to fruit and vegetable consumption. The intake of fruits and vegetables was reported in grams of fruits and vegetables a day, roughly equal to one fruit or vegetable in group 1, two in group 2 and so on.

The incidence of stroke was highest in the group with lowest fruit and vegetable intake and lowest in the fifth group with highest fruit and vegetable intake.

Citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and other fruits (other than citrus) were particularly effective in reducing the incidence of stroke. All fruits were more effective than vegetables.

Roy says the association with vegetable intake and stroke incidence was not as clear. Other factors that were important were being a nonsmoker and drinking alcohol in moderation.

It was thought that fruits and vegetables eaten raw, such as lettuce, oranges and other fruit, were more effective than cooked fruits and vegetables. The LSU AgCenter nutritionist says that usually isolating a single ingredient may not prove to be effective, but vitamin C content of citrus fruits may be the reason they were effective.

Garlic and onion did not have as significant an effect in this study, she added, but the garlic intake was very low in this population.

Roy notes that the USDA MyPyramid recommends 3-4 servings of fruits and 4-5 servings of vegetables a day. She emphasizes that a variety of fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C, A and phytochemicals offers protection against chronic diseases of aging such as stroke, hypertension, obesity and diabetes.

"This study clearly shows the protective effect of consuming fruits and vegetables and prevention of stroke, a serious and debilitating illness," Roy says, adding, "Consuming fruits and vegetables in their natural state, that is, raw, may be even more protective than consuming only cooked vegetables."

Roy also suggests contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office to learn more about following healthful diets.

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