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An Orange a Day May Keep Stroke at Bay

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“Eat your fruits and vegetables” is advice handed down to us since we were children, and medical studies have backed this advice. But could some fruits and vegetables be more beneficial than others in preventing certain diseases? A new study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) found that citrus fruits may reduce the risk of stroke in women. The study was electronically published on February 23, 2012 in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association. Kathryn M. Rexrode, MD, BWH Department of Medicine, and colleagues from the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom and the University of Bari, Italy conducted a prospective study of 69,622 women from data from the Nurses’ Health Study. Based on questionnaires participants completed during 14 years of follow-up, the researchers were able to track stroke incidence and calculate flavonoid intake. Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate and red wine.The researchers discovered that a particular sub-type of flavonoid called flavanone-which are abundant in citrus fruits-seemed to have a protective effect against stroke. High consumption of citrus fruits and juices was associated with a 19 percent reduced risk of ischemic stroke (a type of stroke that happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked). Women who consumed the highest amount of flavanones had a lower risk of ischemic stroke compared to women with the lowest intake. Participants’ main dietary sources of flavanones came from oranges and orange juice (82 percent), followed by grapefruit and grapefruit juice (14 percent).The researchers note that in addition to flavanones, other components in citrus that may reduce stroke risk include vitamin C and potassium.  Despite the study’s

praise for citrus fruits, the researchers caution that more work is still needed to confirm their findings. “I would certainly not recommend that anyone take flavanone supplements based on this research,” said Rexrode. If people do consume citrus, the researchers recommend that they reach for an actual orange instead of a box of OJ, since commercial fruit juices tend to be higher in sugar. Also, people who take medications should be aware that some citrus fruits, specifically grapefruit, can dangerously interact with medicines. This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.  –  Prof. Kathryn M. Rexrode;  Associate Physician, Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Rexrode examines risk factors for heart disease and stroke. She has a particular interest in the role of obesity and hormonal factors, as well as understanding sex differences. She has studied the effects of endogenous sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, and related genetic variants, and risk of cardiovascular disease. She is Principal Investigator of a grant examining risk factors for ischemic stroke in women and Principal Investigator of a grant examining long term cardiovascular outcomes among early stage breast cancer survivors. She is also active in several large studies of women’s health, including the Nurses’ Health Study, the Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study, and the Women’s Health Initiative. News from: Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH, “The Brigham”) is the largest hospital of the Longwood Medical and Academic Area in Boston, Massachusetts.

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