Fruits and Veggies Every Day May Keep Stroke Away

Stroke risk reduced with increased fruit and vegetable consumption

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and disability in the United States. What if you could help prevent stroke without leaving the kitchen? 

A recent review of research found that eating more fruits and vegetables might decrease the risk of having a stroke worldwide.

"Make fruits and vegetables a part of your healthy diet."

This review was conducted by Yan Qu, MD, from the Intensive Care Unit of Qingdao Municipal Hospital in Qingdao, China, and colleagues.

The review included 20 studies published between 1995 and 2013 on the association between stroke risk and fruit and vegetable consumption.

Six of the studies were from the United States, eight were from Europe, and six were from Asia.

The findings showed that there were 16,981 cases of stroke among 760,629 total participants.

Compared to the participants who ate the lowest levels of fruits and vegetables daily, those who consumed the highest amount of fruits and vegetables daily had a 21 percent decreased risk of stroke.

For fruit consumption alone, the participants who ate the highest levels of fruit daily were 23 percent less likely to have a stroke compared to the participants who ate the lowest amount of fruit daily.

The participants who ate the highest amount of vegetables had a 14 percent decreased risk of having a stroke compared to those who consumed the least amount of vegetables daily.

The researchers determined that the risk of stroke fell by 32 percent with every 200 grams of fruit consumed daily. The risk of stroke fell by 11 percent for each 200 grams of vegetables consumed daily.

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables each day also can help lower blood pressure and improve overall blood flow, as well as help manage body mass index (height to weight ratio), waist size, cholesterol levels, and inflammation.

The findings of this study revealed that the association between fruit and vegetable consumption and stroke risk did not differ according to sex, stroke outcome, type of stroke or age. However, the researchers noted that low fruit and vegetable consumption is common around the world, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Therefore, the location of the studies may have affected the outcomes.

"Improving diet and lifestyle is critical for heart and stroke risk reduction in the general population," Dr. Qu in a press release. "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."

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that people need in small amounts in order to function, and macronutrients are things like carbohydrates, proteins and fats that provide energy.

The researchers mentioned that according to the World Health Organization, eating 600 grams of fruits and vegetables per day could decrease the risk of stroke by 19 percent around the world. 

Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, the American Heart Association suggests that adults should eat four to five servings of both vegetables and fruit daily. Eating a variety of types and colors of fruits and vegetables can provide many important nutrients that most people don’t get enough of, such as vitamins, minerals and fiber.

The American Heart Association also emphasizes that fruits and vegetables are healthy because they are naturally low in saturated fats — "bad" fats from animal products that raise total cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

The authors noted that their review was limited because the individual studies could have misclassified the level of consumption, the outcome of each stroke, and other factors unknown to the researchers of this review. Also, there was no data on consumption of other foods, such as dairy food and coffee.

This review was published on May 8 in Stroke.

Qingdao Municipal Hospital provided funding.

Review Date: 
May 8, 2014
Last Updated:
May 8, 2014