In February I wrote about the link between magnesium intake and reduced risk of stroke. There is a growing amount of research in this area, and a new study has now uncovered new links between a special compound in citrus fruits and a lowered risk of stroke (1).
The research, published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, used data provided by almost 70,000 women to find links between diet and stroke risk.
Citrus fruits contain special compounds called flavanones, a special subclass of flavonoids which act as powerful antioxidants.
The data was gathered from the Nurse’s Health Study, which provided details of the diets of 69,622 women. The researchers found that women who ate high amounts of flavanones in citrus fruits had a 19 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke than women who consumed the least amounts.
Study leader Aedín Cassidy, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at the University of East Anglia explains “Flavonoids are thought to provide some of that protection through several mechanisms, including improved blood vessel function and an anti-inflammatory effect.”
A typical serving of citrus fruit contains 45 to 50 mg of flavones. The women with the highest intake consumed more than 470 mg per day. While many of the women in the study consumed their flavanones in the form of orange juice or grapefruit juice, the researchers recommend that we should consume whole citrus fruits rather than sugary fruit juices.
These finding support a previous study which also found that citrus fruit and juice intake, but not intake of other fruits, protected against risk of ischemic stroke.
More studies are needed to confirm the association between flavanone consumption and stroke risk, in order to gain a better understanding of this link. In the meantime, there are several additional dietary measures than can help to protect against stroke.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help to keep blood vessels healthy and reduce the inflammation that is associated with ischemic stroke. Oily fish, ground flaxseeds, flaxseed oil and walnuts are all good sources of this essential fatty acid.
Garlic contains a chemical called allicin, which makes your blood less ‘sticky’, and so less likely to clot and cause a stroke. Flavour your food with plenty of fresh garlic – or if you don’t like the taste then try a garlic supplement.
Broccoli will help to boost your levels of folic acid. Other good sources of folic acid are spinach, asparagus and lentils. This B Vitamin lowers levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can damage your arteries and increase your risk of stroke. The best way to cook broccoli is by steaming, as this helps to preserve the vitamin content.
Purple fruit and berries, such as blueberries, are rich sources of nutrients called proanthocyanidins, providing potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Try adding a handful of blueberries to your muesli or your morning smoothie.
Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC
1. Aedín Cassidy, Eric B. Rimm, Éilis J. O’Reilly, Giancarlo Logroscino, Colin Kay, Stephanie E. Chiuve, and Kathryn M. Rexrode. Dietary Flavonoids and Risk of Stroke in Women. Stroke, February 23 2012
2. Joshipura KA et al. Fruit and vegetable intake in relation to risk of ischemic stroke. JAMA 1999. 282(13):1233-9