Researchers have identified a compound found in oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits that may lower a woman’s stroke risk. According to a study published online last week in the journal Stroke, eating more oranges and grapefruit may help reduce stroke risk thanks to their flavonoid content.
Flavonoids give fruits and veggies their vibrant colors. They are also found in chocolate and red wine. By some estimates there are more than 5,000 of them. Flavonoids are plant-based compounds with powerful antioxidant properties, which means they reduce inflammation, promote healthy arteries, and help prevent and repair cellular damage.
The study analyzed 14 years of data from the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study involving 69,622 healthy women who reported their food intake every four years. The research found that women who ate high amounts of citrus products, which contain a specific class of flavonoid called flavanones, had a 19 per cent lower risk of ischemic (blood clot-related) stroke than women who didn’t consume as much.
Previous studies have shown increased consumption of flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables may help protect against stroke, but this study showed most of the antioxidant-rich products that the woman tracked themsegles eating over the long course of the study were oranges, grapefruit and their juices.
The women with higher total flavonoid intake also tended to:
- Smoke less.
- Exercise more.
- Have greater intakes of fibre, folate, fruits and vegetables.
- Have lower intakes of caffeine and alcohol.
So, to expect that simply increasing citrus in your diet is enough of a lifestyle change to ward off stroke risk would be premature, as combining a healthy diet with those other positive health steps had the greatest factor in lowering the rate of strokes in the studies subjects.
The health message is further complicated by the fact that grapefruit juice and fresh grapefruit can sometimes cause dangerous interactions with medications commonly prescribed to lower heart attack and stroke risk such as Lipitor and Plavix. Certain medications used to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, migraines, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and impotence don’t mix with grapefruit or grapefruit juice as well, so pharmacists at Canada Drugs, Canadian Pharmacy and other pharmacies often urge caution when eating grapefruit when on these medications.