Healthy living

Citrus fruit may reduce the risk of stroke

Citrus fruit may reduce the risk of stroke Flavanones may boost blood vessel function

Eating citrus fruit may help to lower a woman's risk of having a stroke, new research suggests.

Scientists from the University of East Anglia discovered that women who ate high amounts of a type of flavonoid found in citrus fruits had a 19 per cent lower risk of having an ischaemic stroke than women who consumed the least amounts.

Around eight out of ten strokes are caused by a blood clot interrupting or blocking the blood supply to the brain, known as ischaemic stoke.

[Related story: Can you spot the signs of stroke?]

For the first time, the team of scientists looked at how consuming different types of flavonoid affects the risk of stroke. Flavonoids are compounds present in fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate and red wine.

"Studies have shown higher fruit, vegetable and specifically vitamin C intake is associated with reduced stroke risk," said Dr Aedín Cassidy, a professor of nutrition at the University of East Anglia.

"Flavonoids are thought to provide some of that protection through several mechanisms, including improved blood vessel function and an anti-inflammatory effect."

The researchers analysed data from a 14 year study involving nearly 70,000 women in the US. As part of the study, the women reported their food consumption, including details on fruit and vegetable consumption, every four years.

They also looked at how six sub-classes of flavonoids affected the women's stroke risk. The subclasses - flavanones, anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, flavonoid polymers, flavonols and flavones - are all commonly consumed in the US diet.

A diet rich in flavanoids was not found to reduce the risk of stroke. However, the study found that women who ate high amounts of flavanones had a 19 per cent lower risk of blood clot-related stroke compared with women who ate the least.

In the study, most of the flavanones in the women's diet came from oranges, orange juice, grapefruit and grapefruit juice.

The researchers advised that women increase their citrus fruit consumption rather than drinking juice because of the high sugar content often found in commercial fruit juices.

They noted that a Swedish study found that women who ate the highest levels of antioxidants - about 50 per cent from fruits and vegetables - had fewer strokes than those with lower antioxidant levels.

Another study found that citrus fruit and juice intake protected against risk of ischemic stroke and intracerebral hemorrhage.

Dr Sharlin Ahmed, research liaison officer at The Stroke Association, said: "We all know that eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg is good for our health. This study suggests that eating citrus fruits in particular, such as oranges and grapefruit, which are high in vitamin C could help to lower your stroke risk.

"However, this should not deter people from eating other types of fruit and vegetables as they all have health benefits and remain an important part of a staple diet.

"More research is needed in this area to help us understand the possible reasons why citrus fruits could help to keep your stroke risk down."

This article was published on Fri 24 February 2012

Image © Laureen QUILLET -

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