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Dietary fiber cuts risk of first stroke

U. LEEDS (UK) — Just seven grams more dietary fiber each day can lower the risk of first-time stroke by seven percent, according to new research.

This is the equivalent of one serving of whole-wheat pasta and two servings of fruits or vegetables.

“Increasing your fiber intake doesn’t necessarily mean wholesale change to your diet. It might just mean switching from white bread to wholemeal, or from corn flakes to bran flakes. It’s a simple measure with a lot of benefits,” says Victoria Burley, the project lead from the School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds.

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The research, published in the journal Stroke, shows that people who eat a high fiber diet experience a lower risk of first-time stroke.

Dietary fiber is the part of the plant that the body is unable to completely digest. Fiber-rich foods include whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Previous research has shown that dietary fiber may help reduce risk factors for stroke, including obesity, high blood pressure and high blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol.

The researchers analyzed, and combined the results of, eight studies published between 1990 and 2012. The studies reported on all types of stroke with four also examining the particular risk of ischemic stroke, which occurs when a clot blocks a blood vessel to the brain, and three also assessing the particular risk of hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel bleeds into the brain or on its surface.

“Any long-term increase in intake of fiber-rich foods such as whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts will see the risk of stroke reduced. This could be particularly important for people with stroke risk factors like being overweight, smoking, and having high blood pressure,” says Diane Threapleton, the lead author of the study who conducted the research as part of her PhD.

In the United Kingdom, around 150,000 people have a stroke each year and it is the third most common cause of death. Among survivors, the disease is a leading cause of disability.

While it is recommended that adults eat between 18 and 25g of fiber each day, the average intake among British adults is only 14g.

The research was funded by the Department of Health for England with sponsorship of Diane Threapleton’s doctoral studies by Kellogg Marketing and Sales Company (UK) Ltd.

Source: University of Leeds

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