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More Dietary Fiber Might Help Thwart Stroke: Study

Simple measures include adding fruits, veggies to your diet, experts say

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Overall, the study team found that the more total dietary fiber consumed, the lower the risk of a first stroke.

However, the researchers were unable to tease out which particular fiber-rich foods might offer the most protective benefit, given a lack of food-specific data in the studies reviewed. More research would be needed to come up with an ideal stroke-prevention grocery list.

The analysis also only looked at the potential benefit of fiber obtained directly from foods, rather than from supplements, "so we can't say that fiber supplements would provide the same benefit as eating fiber-rich foods," Burley cautioned.

"Increasing your fiber intake doesn't necessarily mean wholesale change to your diet," Burley stressed. "It might just mean switching from white bread to whole-meal, or from corn flakes to bran flakes."

Such simple measures convey many benefits, she said. "We have found that stroke risk is reduced with even small increases in fiber intake, particularly if you are starting from a very low initial intake," she added.

Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, said the British review "comes back to what we've been telling people for years."

"This isn't about running out and getting some Metamucil," she said. "This is all about making healthier food choices and moving towards a plant-based diet, because people just aren't eating enough fruits and vegetables."

Fiber is tied up with foods that are healthful for all sorts of complex reasons, so it's hard to say fiber alone offers this kind of stroke protection, Sandon added.

"But in the end this is about getting down to basics: eating four to five cups of fruit a day, making half your grains whole grains, that kind of thing," she said. "If you want to be healthy, we know this works."

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