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Antioxidant Vitamins May Be Behind Protective Effects of Produce

June 3, 2004 -- Need another reason to eat your fruits and veggies? How about a 40% lower risk of stroke?

Researchers say it's no surprise that fruits and vegetables help prevent stroke, but a new study suggests that it's a particular group of antioxidant vitamins that might be responsible for the foods' healthful effects.

The study showed that men who had the lowest levels of the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables had the highest risk of ischemic stroke. Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke and is caused by a blood clot.

Antioxidant Vitamins Lower Stroke Risks

In the study, researchers compared antioxidant levels in the blood of 297 men who had a stroke to an equal number of men who did not have a stroke. All of the men were participants in the Physician's Health Study and provided blood samples at the start of the study in 1982.

Researchers measured levels of a family of antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables known as carotenoids, which includes vitamin A, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein, and tocopherols, such as vitamin E.

The study showed that men who were in the bottom fifth for levels of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lycopene had the highest risk of stroke.

Men who were in the top four-fifths had a 40% lower risk of having a stroke than those in the lower fifth in the 13 years that the men were followed.

Researchers say the study provides additional evidence that a diet rich in fruits in vegetables appears to help prevent stroke, but it doesn't necessarily prove that eating fruits and vegetables caused the lower risk.

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