Apples of course have a reputation for keeping the doctor away and now research finds that both apples and pears may keep strokes away.
How do they do it? A Dutch study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association found that the white flesh of fruits and vegetables may protect against stroke. Previous studies had linked high consumption of fruits and vegetables in general with lower stroke risk. But this was the first time researchers looked at the color of fruits and vegetables. And it seems to matter.
Over a 10 year period, researchers examined the link between the color of fruits and vegetable consumed with stroke incidence in a population-based study of 20,069 adults, with an average age of 41.
Fruits and vegetables were classified in four color groups:
- Green, including dark leafy vegetables, cabbages and lettuces
- Orange/Yellow, which were mostly citrus fruits
- Red/Purple, which were mostly red vegetables
- White, of which 55 percent were apples and pears
Apples and pears are high in dietary fiber and a flavonoid called quercetin which is believed to have a potential role in numerous conditions including arthritis, heart disease, anxiety, depression, fatigue and asthma.
No association was found between strokes and green, orange/yellow or red/purple fruits and vegetables. However, the risk of stroke incidence was 52 percent lower for people with a high intake of white fruits and vegetables compared to people with a low intake.
The effect of eating white fruits or vegetables was dose dependent – the more people ate, the lower was their risk. Each 25 gram per day increase in white fruits and vegetable consumption was associated with a nine percent lower risk of stroke. An average apple is 120 grams.
The lead author of the study, Linda M. Oude Griep, M.Sc., a postdoctoral fellow in human nutrition noted that while white fruits and vegetables may have a role in stroke prevention, other color groups may protect against other chronic diseases.
Most research on fruits and vegetables has focused on the food's unique nutritional value and characteristics, such as the edible part of the plant, botanical family and its ability to provide antioxidants, rather than color.
According to an editorial accompanying the study, clinical trials isolating antioxidants in supplement form have failed to show any reduction in stroke risk. This lends credence to the theory that it is the combination of nutrients in the whole food that bestows the benefit rather than isolated nutrients.
The bottom line is that we should be getting a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables in our diet and especially the white ones if we're concerned about stroke.