Eating oranges and grapefruit daily seem to help lower the risk of stroke among women, thanks to compounds called flavones they contain. This news comes from reviewing 14 years of follow-up data gathered from 70,000 women participating in the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study, a landmark trial that has been on-going since 1976 and is still recruiting volunteers. The stroke findings were published online February 23 in the journal Stroke. Flavones are a subclass of flavonoids, antioxidant compounds found naturally in fruits, vegetables, red wine, dark chocolate, coffee and tea. The researchers, from England’s Norwich Medical School, found that women whose diets included the most flavones had a 19 percent lower risk of stroke linked to blood clots than those whose diets were lowest in flavones. They reported that most of the flavones came from citrus fruits, and recommended that women choose whole fruits rather than juice to increase their flavones intake. A typical serving of citrus fruit contains 45 to 50 mg of flavones. The women with the highest intake consumed more than 470 mg per day. The researchers noted that the women whose diets included the most flavones also ate more fiber, took in less caffeine and alcohol, smoked less and exercised more than the women with the lowest flavones intake.
My take? In order to help lower the risk of stroke, I have long recommended eating an abundance of vegetables and fruit, particularly purple fruits and berries (and red wine if you drink alcohol), all of which contain protective compounds called proanthocyanidins. This study adds new and valuable information to what we already knew about effective dietary changes to maintain cardiovascular health. In addition, I recommend omega-3 fatty acids in the form of wild, cold-water fish or fish-oil supplements, freshly ground flaxseeds and walnuts to help reduce the inflammatory reactions that can raise the risk of stroke. Other measures to help cut stroke risk include getting plenty of garlic in your diet, since it can act as a blood thinner, and drinking green tea on a regular basis for its antioxidant effects. Be sure to get regular exercise and take measures to reduce stress in your life.