Fruit, Veggie Eaters Have Fewer Strokes
Low Vitamin C Levels Linked to Stroke Risk
Jan. 9, 2008 -- The reasons aren't well understood, but it is increasingly
clear that eating plenty of fruits
and vegetables is a good way to lower your stroke risk.
In one of the largest studies ever to examine the issue, albeit indirectly,
University of Cambridge researchers measured vitamin C levels in more than
20,000 people, who were then followed for roughly a decade.
Blood vitamin C levels tend to be much higher in people who eat lots of
fruits and vegetables than in people who do not.
When the participants were divided into four groups based on vitamin C
levels, those with the highest concentrations of the vitamin in their blood
were found to have a 42% lower stroke risk than those with the lowest
The association was seen even after the researchers adjusted for a wide
range of stroke risk factors.
Vitamin C, Vegetables, and Stroke
The findings do not prove that it is the vitamin C in fruits and vegetables
that is protective, the researchers note.
And most studies have found that taking vitamin C and other antioxidant
vitamin supplements is of no benefit for lowering stroke
But the study is one more indication that eating fruits and vegetables every
day may have cardiovascular benefits, says Mark Levine, MD, of the National
Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
"We don't know what it is, but the message to the public is clear,"
he tells WebMD. "Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Think about
color, and eat a rainbow of plant foods. That is a pretty simple thing to
A total of 20,649 men and women between the ages of 40 and 79 at entry were
included in the British trial, reported in the latest issue of the American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
During an average follow-up of 9.5 years, 448 of the study participants had
Lead researcher Phyo K. Myint, MRCP, and colleagues suggest that the
observed increase in risk among people with the lowest vitamin C levels could
have clinical implications.
Specifically, vitamin C levels may prove to be a good predictive indicator
of stroke risk, independent of known risk factors such as age, smoking history,
blood pressure, and cholesterol, they write.
"Given that about half of the risk of stroke is unexplained by
conventional cardiovascular disease risk factors and that the predictive
validity of traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors appears to diminish
with age, risk markers that may help to identify those persons at greatest risk
of stroke ... may be of interest."
Less Salt, More Potassium
Stroke specialist Larry B. Goldstein, MD, was chairman of the committee that
revised the American Stroke Association's guidelines for stroke prevention in 2006.
Goldstein tells WebMD that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is a good
way to accomplish both goals.
He says there is no good evidence that taking vitamins in pill form helps
lower stroke risk, and even notes disturbing evidence that antioxidant
supplements interfere with the action of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs routinely prescribed to
patients at high risk for strokes.