Friday, October 12, 2012. The October 9, 2012 issue of the journal Neurology® published the finding of Finnish researchers of a protective effect for the carotenoid lycopene, which occurs in high amounts in tomatoes and other plant foods, against the risk of stroke in middle-aged men.
The study included 1,031 men aged 46 to 65 years participating in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor cohort. Blood tests conducted upon enrollment between 1991 and 1993 evaluated serum carotenoids, vitamins A and E, and other factors. The subjects were followed through 1999, during which 50 men experienced ischemic stroke (which accounts for 85 percent of all strokes) and 17 men had other types of stroke.
Men who experienced strokes tended to be older and had higher systolic blood pressure, which increases stroke risk. Those whose lycopene levels were among the top 25 percent of participants had a 59 percent lower adjusted risk of ischemic stroke and a 55 percent lower risk of any stroke over follow-up in comparison with men whose lycopene levels were among the lowest fourth. Levels of other nutrients measured did not appear to be associated with stroke risk in this study. According to authors Jouni Karppi, PhD and colleagues, "One possible reason that lycopene might decrease the risk of stroke more than other antioxidants may be the consequence of antioxidant activity. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant and the most effective quencher of singlet oxygen, and it was reported to be more effective than beta-carotene in cell protection against hydrogen peroxide and nitrogen dioxide radicals. Furthermore, different subtypes of stroke have different etiopathologies and thus most likely also have different associations with dietary antioxidants."
"This study adds to the evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke," stated Dr Karppi, who is affiliated with the University of Eastern Finland's Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition. "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."
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