WASHINGTON, May 8 (Xinhua) -- Eating more fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of stroke worldwide, according to new research published Thursday in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke.
The study found that stroke risk decreased by 32 percent with every 200 grams of fruit consumed each day and that 11 percent with every 200 grams of vegetables consumed each day.
However, low fruit and vegetable consumption is prevalent worldwide, and especially in low- and middle-income countries, it said.
The findings were based on a meta-analysis of 20 studies over the past 19 years, which involved 760,629 men and women who had 16, 981 strokes and were conducted in Europe, the United States and Asia.
"Improving diet and lifestyle is critical for heart and stroke risk reduction in the general population," senior author Yan Qu, director of the intensive care unit China's Qingdao Municipal Hospital, said in a statement.
"In particular, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is highly recommended because it meets micronutrient and macronutrient and fiber requirements without adding substantially to overall energy requirements," said Yan, who is also professor at the Medical College of Qingdao University.
According to the researchers, our bodies need smaller amounts of micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, while macronutrients such as carbohydrates, protein and fat provide calories or energy.
The researchers cited studies demonstrating that high fruit and vegetable consumption can lower blood pressure and improve microvascular function, and also has favorable effects on body mass index, waist circumference, cholesterol, inflammation and oxidative stress.
The beneficial effects of fruits and vegetables applied consistently to men and women, but no significant difference in the effect on age was found, they said.
The World Health Organization recommends that increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables up to 600 grams each day could reduce the burden of ischemic stroke by 19 percent globally, while the American Heart Association advises the average adult to eat four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
In China, stroke is the leading cause of death, with an estimated 1.7 million people dying in 2010. In the United States, stroke is the No. 4 cause of death and a leading cause of disability.