Press Releases

1999 Releases

Fruits and Vegetables May Reduce Risk of Stroke: Findings Support Recommended 5 Servings a Day

For immediate release: October 05, 1999 

Boston, MA--Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have found that eating five servings per day of fruits and vegetables is associated with a 30 percent lower risk of stroke in healthy men and women. The finding, a result of both the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the landmark BWH-based Nurses' Health Study, is reported in October 6th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

"We found that there is strong evidence of a protective relationship between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and the incidence of stroke in both men and women," said Kaumudi J. Joshipura, ScD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, and lead author of the study. "In particular, cruciferous and green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits and juices were found to have the greatest apparent benefit, especially when intake was five to six servings per day."

The results of the study were based on the analysis of questionnaires from participants in both the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Researchers examined diet and health data from 75,596 women aged 34 to 59 years over a 14-year period and similar information from 38,683 men over an eight-year period. In particular, researchers studied the incidence of ischemic strokes, the most common type of stroke, caused by a blockage of blood vessels in the brain.

While the study showed no significant difference among men and women in relation to reduced risks for stroke associated with the consumption of fruits and vegetables, researchers did determine that protective benefit was associated with a minimum of three servings of fruit and vegetables per day for both sexes. However, no significant additional benefit was realized among participants who consumed six or more servings per day.

While the researchers suggest that the benefits of green, leafy vegetables and citrus fruits and citrus fruit juices may be due to the concentration of potassium, folate, fiber, and dietary flavenoids in these foods, this hypothesis is based on other studies that are suggestive of such value. "While other studies offer evidence of the protective value of these components, we believe that it is best at this point to consider the role of fruits and vegetables in their entirety," said Joshipura. "Clearly, this study provides further support for the recommendation that men and women consume at least 5 servings per day of fruits and vegetables to reduce their risk of strokes and improve their overall health."

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health with additional support from the State of Florida Department of Citrus and the Office of Dietary Supplements.

For further information, please contact:

Robin Herman
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02115
Phone: 617-432-4752
Email: rherman@hsph.harvard.edu

Suzanne O'Brien, Tricia Oliver, (617) 732-5008
Brigham and Women's Hospital