Stroke is considered the second leading cause of death worldwide and the 4th leading cause in the US. It is a disabling medical emergency that can affect anyone despite age, race or gender. Your risk of having a stroke depends on several factors, many of which you can control and some of which you can’t. The ones you can control revolve around a healthy diet and lifestyle. Health professionals constantly recommend consumption of fruits and vegetables to reduce cardiovascular disease–but does eating fruits and vegetables help reduce the risk of stroke?
Early in 2014, medical researchers from China re-examined data from past studies to evaluate the relationship between fruit/veggie intake and stroke risk. They found data available in 20 studies which included 760,629 total participants (from US, Asia and Europe), out of which 16,981 had recorded stroke events. Fruit and vegetable consumption had been recorded via interviewer or self-administered food frequency questionnaires in all but 3 of the studies. After data analysis, they found that the participants with highest total fruit and veggie consumption also had the lowest stroke risk, and inversely, that the participants with lowest total fruit and veggies intake had the highest risk of stroke. When they looked at fruits and vegetables individually, they also found that those with highest fruit OR vegetable consumption had lowest risk of stroke and vice-versa. For every additional 200 grams per day of fruits consumed, the risk of stroke decreased 32%, whereas it decreased by 11% for every additional 200 grams per day of vegetables. This is not surprising, considering fruits and vegetables are nutrient rich foods which contain the vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals known to help prevent chronic conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, etc. (all of which are risk factors for stroke). Although this association cannot prove that the high fruit/vegetable consumption directly caused low stroke risk, it strongly supports the belief that higher consumption of fruits/vegetables could reduce risk of stroke.
Reference: Hu D, et al. Fruits and vegetables consumption and risk of stroke: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Stroke. 2014 May