A study reports that women who consumed an antioxidant-rich diet had a lesser number of strokes whether or not they had a cardiovascular disease history. Consuming foods rich in antioxidants can decrease stroke risk by inhibiting inflammation and oxidative stress. This means individuals should consume more foods like vegetables and fruit which are contributing to total antioxidant capacity.
Oxidative stress is the imbalance between production of free radicals that damage cells and the ability of the body to neutralize the free radicals. Oxidative stress can result in stiffening, blood vessel damage and inflammation. Antioxidants like vitamins E and C, flavonoids and carotenoids are able to inhibit inflammation and oxidative stress by scavenging free radicals. Flavonoids and other antioxidants can also help in improving endothelial function and reducing inflammation, blood pressure and blood clotting.
All the antioxidants found in the diet were taken into account for the study in doses provided by a usual diet. Dietary data was collected by means of a food-frequency questionnaire. A standard database was made use of to determine individuals’ total antioxidant capacity, which measures the reducing capacity of free radicals of all the diet’s antioxidants.
The women were categorized according to total antioxidant capacity levels – 5 groups with no cardiovascular disease history and 4 with prior cardiovascular disease. Vegetables and fruit contributed about 50% of total antioxidant capacity for women without any cardiovascular disease history who had the highest total antioxidant capacity. Whole grains, tea and chocolate were other contributors.
The study discovered:
- Higher total antioxidant capacity was associated with reduced rates of stroke in women with no cardiovascular disease.
- Women with the highest levels of dietary total antioxidant capacity with no cardiovascular disease had a significantly 17% lower total stroke risk in comparison to women in the lowest quintile.
- Those women with cardiovascular disease history in the highest 3 quartiles of dietary total antioxidant capacity had a significantly 46% – 57% lower hemorrhagic stroke risk in comparison to women in the lowest quartile.
It could be that women having a high antioxidant intake are more health conscious which could have had an influence on the results. But, the inverse dietary total antioxidant capacity and stroke association persisted after potential confounder adjustments associated with healthy behavior like education, physical activity and smoking.