Women's Health Matters

Text Size
Jump to body content

An apple a day – or a pear – might help keep stroke away

Sept. 16, 2011

By Patricia Nicholson

There may be some truth in the old adage about an apple a day. But it may apply to pears, too, and other “white” fruit and vegetables.

Results of a new study indicate that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables with white flesh may significantly lower the risk of stroke.

Previous research has shown that a diet high in fruit and vegetables lowers stroke risk, but researchers didn’t know if specific types of fruits and vegetables were particularly beneficial. According to background information provided in the study, earlier research on individual vegetables and families of vegetables did not provide clear results.

For the current study, researchers in The Netherlands chose a different way to classify fruits and vegetables. Because the colours of fruits and vegetables often come from the nutrients and micronutrients they contain, the researcher divided them into four colour groups that might reflect different nutrient types:

  • Green, including cabbage, lettuce, dark leafy greens, green beans, green sweet peppers, kiwi fruit and honeydew melon
  • Orange/yellow, which was mostly citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, but also included cantaloupe, carrots and peaches
  • Red/purple, including berries, beets, red cabbage, tomatoes and red sweet pepper
  • White, including apples, pears, bananas, cauliflower, cucumber, mushrooms, onion, garlic and leeks

The researchers collected detailed diet information on more than 20,000 men and women, ages 20-65, and followed them for 10 years. None of the study participants had a history of cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study. During the 10-year followup period, 233 people had strokes.

There was no relationship between the green, orange/yellow or red/purple fruit and vegetable groups and stroke incidence. However, the people who ate the most white fruits and vegetables (more than 171 grams per day) had significantly lower stroke incidence than those who ate the least amount from the white group (less than 78 grams per day). Apples and pears – including apple juice and applesauce – accounted for more than half of white fruit and vegetable consumption.

The researchers calculated that each 25-gram increase in white fruits and vegetables corresponded to a nine per cent decrease in stroke risk. According to information provided with the study, an average apple weighs about 120 grams.

The study authors noted that these health benefits may come from the fibre in apples, or perhaps from a flavonol (a type of micronutrient found in plants) called quercentin.

The study was published in the journal Stroke on Sept. 15, 2011.

Jump to top page

  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital