An apple a day—keeps strokes away

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“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” as the saying goes, turns out to be less fanciful than one might think. Dutch research suggests that white fruit and vegetables –apples, pears, chicory, cauliflower – lower the chance of a stroke by up to 55 percent.

The nutritional study, by Wageningen University’s Linda Oude Griep, is the first to examine the relationship between the colour of fruit and vegetables and health.

To determine the impact on strokes, she divided fruit and vegetables by their colours. Green ones (spinach, lettuce), yellow/oranges ones (citrus fruits, carrots), and red/purple ones (tomatoes, strawberries, blue grapes) did not lessen the likelihood of a stroke. But people with a high intake of white fruit and vegetables had 55 percent fewer strokes than people with a low intake.

Oude Griep’s research is based on a survey of 20,000 people taken in 2001 by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment:

“This gives us a fairly complete picture of what people were eating ten years ago. Since then, all of them have been tracked for cardiovascular diseases. Our study is based on the combined data.”

Research has yet to determine which of the many different nutrients in the white group are exactly responsible for the lower stroke rate.

“What we can say is that 55 percent of the white fruit and vegetables consisted of apples and pears, which are rich in fibres as well as flavonoids and quercetin. These nutrients are thought to offer protection against strokes. This might explain the positive effect.”

Oude Griep stresses that her study will require further research. But it confirms, she says, the importance of a diet high in a variety of fruit and vegetables.

Ineke van Dis, a nutrition expert at the Dutch Cardiovascular Foundation, agrees.

“It is a first, important finding. But our foundation takes a broad approach to cardiovascular diseases. We therefore advise people to eat fruit and vegetables of all colours, including white ones of course.”


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