Stroke continues to rank as the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., permanently disabling and needlessly taking the lives of hundreds of thousands of adults every year. Recent studies have demonstrated that the risk of stroke can be lowered by following simple lifestyle changes including regular physical activity, limiting or eliminating trans and hydrogenated fats and sugars from the diet and consuming a variety of antioxidants from natural foods or supplemental sources.
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Lycopene, antioxidant present in tomatoes, cuts stroke risk.
A research team from the University of Eastern Finland, reporting in the journal, Neurology has determined that eating tomatoes and tomato-based foods is associated with a lower risk of stroke, due in large part to high concentrations of the potent antioxidant, lycopene. Lycopene is a well studied compound that gives tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables their deep red color. In prior studies, lycopene has been associated with a significant risk reduction in the development and progression of prostate cancer.
To conduct this study, scientists considered medical data from 1,031 Finnish men between the ages of 46 and 65. Baseline lycopene levels were taken at the outset of the study, and the participants were followed for a period of 12 years. During this period, 67 men experienced a stroke event.
Lycopene from tomatoes and tomato-based foods dramatically lowers stroke risk in men
After determining the amount of lycopene consumed by the participants, researchers found that 9.7 percent of those men with the lowest intake of lycopene experienced a stroke. 4.2 percent of the men with the highest lycopene consumption had a stroke over the study period. The study team determined that people with the highest amounts of lycopene in their blood were 55 percent less likely to have a stroke than people with the lowest amounts of lycopene in their blood.
When the researchers further broke down the results, they found that those with the highest levels of lycopene were 59 percent less likely to have an ischemic stroke (caused by a blood clot, the most common type of stroke) than those with the lowest levels. Lead research author, Dr. Jouni Karppi concluded "This study adds to the evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke... the results support the recommendation that people get more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which would likely lead to a major reduction in the number of strokes worldwide, according to previous research."
Interestingly, the scientists reviewed blood levels of the antioxidants alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol and retinol, but found no association between the blood levels and risk of stroke. This provides further support for consumption of a varied diet from a wide array of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds supplying a rainbow of antioxidant compounds and omega-3 fats to prevent disease. Health-conscious individuals will want to include one to two daily servings of tomatoes and tomato-based foods to dramatically lower stroke risk.
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