Citrus fruits guard against stroke in women

February 26, 2012 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News, Women's Health

Citrus fruits guard against stroke in women

Eating citrus fruits, especially oranges and grapefruit, may lower women's risk of developing clot-associated or ischemic stroke, according to a new study published online in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The researchers from the United Kingdom wanted to examine more closely how consumption of foods containing different classes of flavonoids affected the risk of stroke.

Flavonoids are bioactive compounds in fruits, vegetables, nuts, dried beans and lentils, cocoa, tea and red wine.  Flavonoids can be categorized into several classes, each class found in certain foods and having specific health properties.

Previous studies have shown higher fruit, vegetable and specifically vitamin C intake is associated with reduced stroke risk.

A stroke occurs when part of the brain shuts down because of loss of blood supply, caused either by a blockage or embolism that stops the blood flow (ischemia), or due to leakage caused by a hemorrhage.

Flavonoids are thought to provide some protection against stroke by improving blood vessel function and reducing inflammation.

For the study, the researchers examined data from the U.S. based Nurse's Health Study. They looked at 14 years of follow-up data completed by 69,622 female participants who every four years had reported their dietary intake, including details of the fruits and vegetables they consumed.

They looked for links between the six major subclasses of flavonoids commonly present in the American diet and risk of ischemic, hemorrhagic and total stroke.

The six major subclasses they examined were: flavonones, anthocyanins, flavon-3-ols, flavonoid polymers, flavonols and flavones.

Since it is already known that each subclass has a different biological effect, the researchers did not expect to find any strong beneficial links between total flavonoid consumption and stroke risk.

But they did find a strong link between high consumption of flavonones in citrus fruits and reduced stroke risk. Women who consumed the most showed a 19% lower risk of ischemic stroke compared to women who ate the least amounts of flavonones from citrus fruits. Oranges and orange juice (82%) and grapefruit and grapefruit juice (14%) had the highest amounts of flavonones.

Source: Stroke, Journal of the American Heart Association, February 2012

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