Swedish researchers found that antioxidants from raw food sources can significantly reduce the risk of stroke in both people with a history of cardiovascular diseases, as well as healthy individuals.
Swedish researchers from the Karolinska Institute have published a study showing that diets rich in natural foods like fruits, vegetables or whole grains will reduce the risk of stroke.
High dietary antioxidant levels reduce stroke risk in women
The scientists investigated the link between the level of antioxidant capable substances taken from healthy foods and the occurrence of strokes. They then studied the positive impact of high dietary Total Antioxidant Capacity (or TAC in medical lingo) on decreasing risk levels for both people with previous cardiovascular problems and people that had no such issues. TAC is used to measure the levels of antioxidant abilities of nutrients derived from dietary sources. It takes into account the quantity and the effects caused by subtle reactions between different bioactive compounds.
The study was conducted on women between the ages of 49 and 83, from the Swedish Mammography Cohort. 31,035 participants with no history of cardiovascular diseases (shortened to CVD) and 5680 with such problems were included in the study. Participants were asked to answer a questionnaire regarding the frequency at which they consume certain types of foods, and after that, TAC levels were evaluated for each participant. Patients then underwent follow up observation and the number of stoke occurrences were recorded using the Swedish Hospital Discharge Registry.
Based on the levels of antioxidant measured, the participants were subsequently divided into 5 groups for women with no previous cardiovascular issues, and 4 groups for healthy individuals. The results showed that women who ate a diet rich in substances with antioxidant characteristics were less likes to have a stroke, irrespective of previous medical history regarding heart disease.
Researchers estimated that, in the case of healthy subjects, those in the group with the highest antioxidant levels were 17% less likely to suffer a fatal stroke than those in the group with the lowest level of such active substances. Eating fruits and vegetables significantly decreased risk levels for people with a history of heart conditions as well. While the chance for fatal strokes was not as significantly affected, the chances for a hemorrhagic stroke were noticeably decreased. The women suffering from cardiovascular problems which had the highest level of evaluated antioxidants were 45% to 57% less likely to develop a stroke than the ones with lower levels of antioxidants. Based on the gathered data, the scientists reported that “dietary TAC is inversely associated with total stroke among CVD-free women and hemorrhagic stroke among women with CVD history.”
Fruits and vegetables, the main source of antioxidants
A condition known as Oxidative stress has been identified as one of the primary risk factors in the development of a series of health disorders, which also include various problems of the cardiovascular system. In short, oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to neutralize them or counter their effects. The intake of supplementary free radical scavenging substances from dietary sources helps the body restore its balance and alleviate the impact of damaging toxins.
The Swedish researchers managed to demonstrate that the best source for antioxidants are fresh fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, their data conclusively states that most of the antioxidant intake reserve is based on raw food sources. For the study participants, fruits and vegetables provided 50% of the total amount of active compounds, followed by whole grains with 18% and tea with 16%. The vitamins C and E, as well as flavonoids and carotenoids taken from readily available natural sources, provided for the necessary antioxidant levels. This led the Swedish researchers to conclude that “eating antioxidant-rich foods may reduce your risk of stroke by inhibiting oxidative stress and inflammation. This means people should eat more foods such as fruits and vegetables that contribute to total antioxidant capacity.”
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