Eating fruit, vegetables and cheese linked to lower stroke risk, study finds

Vincent Wood
Closeup side view of a late 20's couple buying some vegetables at a local supermarket: iStock

The risk of suffering a certain type of stroke could be diminished through diet, one of the largest studies of its kind has suggested.

Scientists observed how food related to two major types of stroke – ischaemic strokes which are caused by blockages causing a cutting off of blood supply to the brain, and haemorrhagic strokes when a bleed on the brain damages surrounding cells.

While observing data from 418,000 people in nine European countries, they found that a higher intake of dietary fibre could be linked to a decreased risk of ischaemic stroke.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, also suggested eating more eggs could be linked to a higher risk of suffering a haemorrhagic stroke.

However, critics have said while the broad span of the data collected was a strength of the study, there could be other factors at play beyond what was on the sample group’s plates.

Dr Tammy Tong, the first author on the study and a nutritional epidemiologist at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, said: "The most important finding is that higher consumption of both dietary fibre and fruit and vegetables was strongly associated with lower risks of ischaemic stroke, which supports current European guidelines.

"The general public should be recommended to increase their fibre and fruit and vegetable consumption, if they are not already meeting these guidelines.

"Our study also highlights the importance of examining stroke subtypes separately, as the dietary associations differ for ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke, and is consistent with other evidence, which shows that other risk factors, such as cholesterol levels or obesity, also influence the two stroke subtypes differently."

Participants provided details on their diet, lifestyle and medical history as part of a questionnaire, with researchers following up with them for an average of 12 years.

Over the period, 4,281 cases of ischaemic stroke and 1,430 cases of haemorrhagic stroke were recorded.

However while higher intakes of fruit, vegetables, fibre, milk, cheese or yoghurt were linked to a lower risk of ischaemic stroke, there was “no significant association” with the foods to haemorrhagic strokes.

When it came to ischaemic strokes, every 10g increase in the intake of fibre a day was associated with a 23 per cent lower risk, according to researchers.

That rate is the equivalent of two fewer cases in every 1,000 people over the course of 10 years. Fruit and vegetables meanwhile were associated with a 13 per cent decrease risk for every 200g per day.

However on the negative end of the spectrum every extra 20g of eggs consumed a day was linked to a 25 per cent higher risk of haemorrhagic stroke.

Paul Evans, professor of cardiovascular science at University of Sheffield, who was not involved in the study, said: "A major strength of this study is that it captured data from a large cohort of individuals from nine European countries.

"However, although the research has discovered an association between dietary intake and stroke risk, it is possible that the altered stroke risk is not caused by the diet itself but is instead caused by associated socioeconomic or lifestyle factors.

"Further research is therefore needed to investigate whether diet has a direct influence on stroke risk."

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