Eating more than the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per pay dramatically cuts the risk of suffering a stroke, a new report claims today.
Scientists believe the combination of nutrients, minerals and chemical compounds in fruit and vegetables may work together to reduce the risk factors that can lead to a stroke.
Strokes kill an estimated 67,000 people in the UK each year and leave many more paralysed or unable to speak. More than 250,000 Britons live with a severe disability caused by a stroke.
However scientists now estimate that eating more than five portions a day can reduce the risk of stroke by more than a 25 per cent when compared with a low intake of less than three servings.
The findings, published in The Lancet, came after Dr Feng He and his colleagues from the University of London analysed eight studies involving more than a quarter of a million people across the globe.
They found a clear association between increased consumption of fruit and vegetables and reduced stroke risk and say this may be due to the fact that fruit and vegetables are rich sources of potassium, folate, fibre and antioxidants.
Dr He said: ‘The average fruit and vegetable intake in most developed countries is about three servings per day, and current recommendations encourage five or more servings per day.
‘Our results provide strong support for these recommendations. If these goals were achieved, stroke morbidity (illness) and mortality would be greatly reduced. Such diet modifications would also reduce other cardiovascular disease and some cancers.’
Joe Korner, of The Stroke Association, said: ‘Simply increasing daily intake of fruit and vegetables to five or more a day could reduce the number of strokes by 26 per cent. In the UK that would mean nearly 40,000 strokes a year. At least a further 20,000 of strokes could be prevented by better control of high blood pressure through reducing salt intake, better exercise and stopping smoking.
‘Awareness of strokes and how to prevent them is too low, so it is extremely urgent that this vital message gets across to people through concerted health promotion and awareness campaigning.’