Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the most common cause of disability in most developed countries. Previous research has shown that increased consumption of fruit and vegetables is related to a reduced risk of stroke, but the extent of the association has been uncertain until now.
Feng He (St. George's, University of London, UK) and colleagues pooled data from eight studies on fruit and vegetable consumption and stroke risk, involving over 257 500 people from Europe, Japan, and the USA. The analysis revealed that compared with individuals who have less than three fruit and vegetable servings a day, those with three to five servings per day had an 11% reduction in the incidence of stroke, while those with more than five servings per day had a relative reduction of 26%.
Dr He concludes: "The average fruit and vegetable intake in most developed countries is about three servings per day, and current recommendations encourage five or more servings per day. Our results provide strong support for these recommendations. If these goals were achieved, stroke morbidity and mortality would be greatly reduced. Such diet modifications would also reduce other cardiovascular disease and some cancers."
In an accompanying Comment Lynn Steffen (University of Minnesota School of Public Health, USA) states: "Low intake of fruit and vegetables is a major modifiable risk factor contributing to the burden of ill health… Because food habits develop in childhood, we must protect young people from developing chronic disease early in life. Therefore, partnerships must be formed between public-health agencies, state and local industry, and the media to promote healthy food choices."