September 16 – Eating apples and pears may help to protect against stroke, according to a study that looked at the link between the colour of fruits and vegetables with the disease. Apples and pears are known as “white” fruits – and in spite of their lack of colour – researchers say they may be especially potent at preventing stroke.
The research, carried out at Wageningen Uninversity in the Netherlands, is the first to examine an association between the consumption of fruit and vegetable colour groups with a 10-year stroke incidence. A total of 20,069 adults, with an average age of 41, took part in the study. All were free of cardiovascular diseases at the outset and everyone completed a 178-item food frequency questionnaire for the previous year. The findings are published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Fruits and vegetables were classified in four colour groups: green (dark leafy vegetables, cabbages and lettuces); orange/yellow (mostly citrus fruits); red/purple; white, of which 55 per cent were apples and pears. During the 10 year follow-up, 233 strokes were documented. Green, orange/yellow and red/purple fruits and vegetables were not related to stroke. But researchers found the risk of stroke incidence was 52 per cent lower for people with a high intake of white fruits and vegetables compared to people with a low intake. Each 25 gram per day increase in white fruits and vegetable consumption was associated with a nine per cent lower risk of stroke. An average apple is 120 grams.
“To prevent stroke, it may be useful to consume considerable amounts of white fruits and vegetables,” said Linda Oude Griep, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in human nutrition. “For example, eating one apple a day is an easy way to increase white fruits and vegetable intake.”
Apples and pears are high in dietary fibre and a flavonoid called quercetin. In the study, other foods in the white category were bananas, cauliflower, chicory and cucumber. An accompanying editorial notes that the finding should be interpreted with caution because food frequency questionnaires may not be reliable.
“The observed reduction in stroke risk might further be due to a generally healthier lifestyle of individuals consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables,” writes Dr Heike Wersching, of Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine at the University of Münster, in Germany.