Eating lots of fruits and vegetables helps lower the risk of developing a stroke, a new study shows. The new report comes from a team of scientists at the the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and was published in the “Stroke” journal of the American Heart Association.
Statistically speaking, stroke ranks second among the world’s causes of death, after heart diseases. The experiments were based on data which shows that diets rich in antioxidant foods reduce the risk factors associated with stroke, by inhibiting the process which causes oxidative stress and inflammation. Oxidative stress is a condition that develops when the human body is unable to counterbalance free radicals or mitigate their damaging effects. It is known to be one of the main causes for various health problems, including diseases of the cardiovascular system.
Fruits and vegetables have a high content of powerful bioactive substances with antioxidant characteristics. Flavonoids, vitamins E and C, as well as carotenoids, have free radical scavenging abilities, and will help the body fight elevated levels of oxidants. Moreover, they can also prevent the onset of oxidative stress and related problems.
The research was aimed at investigating the relation between Total Antioxidant Capacity (TAC) and the development of stroke, in both subjects with a history of cardiovascular disease and healthy patients. Total Antioxidant Capacity measures the total free radical reducing abilities of all antioxidant capable substances in the diet. It takes into account not only the levels of antioxidants themselves, but also the effects of the synergistic reactions between them.
The study was conducted on 31,035 Swedish women who had no previous cardiovascular issues, and 5,680 women who had such complications. The test group was aged 49 to 83 and was based on the Swedish Mammography Cohort, established between 1987 and 1990. The women’s dietary habits were evaluated according to a food frequency questionnaire, which asked the participants to answer how often they consumed certain types of food. Based on TAC levels, the participants were split into 9 groups – 4 groups with a history of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), and 5 groups with no previous heart-related issues.
“Findings suggest that dietary TAC is inversely associated with total stroke among CVD-free women and hemorrhagic stroke among women with CVD history,” the scientists explained. Data showed that in the healthy groups, the risk of stroke was 17% higher for the subjects with low antioxidant levels.
The major contributors to antioxidant levels were fruits and vegetables. For the group with a history of heart problems, participants with high antioxidant levels had a 46% to 57% lower risk of stroke, when compared to the participants with low antioxidant levels.
The results show that in all cases, the women with low antioxidant levels were more likely to suffer stroke. Including healthier, natural foods in the daily diet, such as fruits and vegetables, will help prevent the buildup of risk factors leading to stroke. “Eating antioxidant-rich foods may reduce your risk of stroke by inhibiting oxidative stress and inflammation. This means people should eat more fruits and vegetables that contribute to total antioxidant capacity,” concluded the science team.
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