Increase your intake of vegetables to decrease stroke risk

A large study published in January 2020 investigating correlations between diet and cardiometabolic risk has found that regular consumption of different types of food is linked to risks of different types of stroke.

Until now, most studies have looked at the association between food and total stroke (all types of stroke combined), or focused on ischaemic stroke only. However, this study of more than 418,000 people in nine European countries (Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) investigated ischaemic stroke and haemorrhagic stroke separately.

Ischaemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery supplying blood to the brain or forms somewhere else in the body and travels to the brain where it blocks blood flow. Haemorrhagic stroke occurs when there is bleeding in the brain that damages nearby cells. About 85% of strokes are ischaemic and 15% are haemorrhagic. Stroke is the second leading cause of deaths worldwide.

The study by Tong et al (2020) analysed data from 418,329 men and women in the nine countries who were recruited to the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study between 1992 and 2000. The participants completed questionnaires asking about diet, lifestyle, medical history and socio-demographic factors, and were followed up for an average of 12.7 years. During this time, there were 4,281 cases of ischaemic stroke and 14,30 cases of haemorrhagic stroke.

The trial found that while higher intakes of fruit, vegetables, fibre, milk, cheese or yoghurt were each linked to a lower risk of ischaemic stroke, there was no significant association with a lower risk of haemorrhagic stroke.

The most statistically significant findings from this trial were that higher consumption of both dietary fibre and vegetables was strongly associated with lower risks of ischaemic stroke. Vegetables alone were associated with a 13% lower risk for every 200g eaten a day. The total amount of fibre (including fibre from fruit, vegetables, cereal, legumes, nuts and seeds) that people ate was associated with the greatest potential reduction in the risk of ischaemic stroke. Every 10g more intake of fibre a day was associated with a 23% lower risk.

All the more reason to ensure that you increase your daily vegetables and fibre intake!

I ask my clients to aim for a minimum of 5 large handfuls of different vegetables per day.  

Tong, TYN, Appleby, PN, Key, TJ, et al. The associations of major foods and fibre with risks of ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke: a prospective study of 418 329 participants in the EPIC cohort across nine European countries. European Heart Journal. 2020. 

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