The study – published in Stroke – reports that a diet rich in antioxidants from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may lower the total risk of stroke among women with no history of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and hemorrhagic stroke in women with a history of heart problems.
Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden said that to the best of their knowledge, no study has assessed the relation between dietary total antioxidant content (TAC) and stroke risk in participants with a previous history of cardiovascular disease.
"Eating antioxidant-rich foods may reduce your risk of stroke by inhibiting oxidative stress and inflammation,” said Susanne Rautiainen who led the study.
“This means people should eat more foods such as fruits and vegetables that contribute to total antioxidant capacity."
Rautiainen and her colleagues investigated the health data of more than 31,000 women between the ages of 49 and 83 without heart disease and over 5,000 women with a history of CVD.
The team then used dietary information to determine the women’s total antioxidant capacity (TAC) – a measurement of the power of these compounds to cut down on disease-linked free radicals in cells.
“In this study, we took into account all the antioxidants present in the diet, including thousands of compounds, in doses obtained from a usual diet,” said Rautiainen.
They found that women in the highest group of dietary antioxidant intake, and with no CVD, had a 17% lower risk of total stroke compared to those in the lowest group. Further, they reported that women with history of CVD in the highest three quarters of antioxidant intake had up to a 57% lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
Rautiainen and her colleagues said fruits and vegetables contributed about 50% of antioxidant capacity in women with no history of heart disease who had the highest total antioxidant count. Other contributors included whole grains (18%), tea (16%), and chocolate (5%).
“Further studies are needed to assess the link between dietary TAC and stroke risk in men and in people in other countries, but we think our results are applicable,” explained Rautiainen.
Published online before print, doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.635557
“Total Antioxidant Capacity of Diet and Risk of Stroke: A Population-Based Prospective Cohort of Women”
Authors: S. Rautiainen, S. Larsson, J. Virtamo, A. Wolk