By Allison Knott, RD
Recently the well-known phrase, “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away,” received some additional backing by a newly published study in the November issue of Stroke. Only now, pears and cabbage may also keep you out of the doctor’s office.
Dutch researchers examined the Monitoring Project on Risk Factors and Chronic Disease in the Netherlands cohort, and found a 52% lower stroke incidence among people consuming higher intakes of white fruits and vegetables when compared to those with the lowest intake. The prospective, population based study of 20,069 men and women also found that for every 25 gram per day increase in white fruit and vegetable consumption, there was a 9% lower risk of stroke. However, they reported that other colors of fruits and vegetables had no impact on stroke incidence.
Researchers categorized fruits and vegetables according to the color of their edible portion. White flesh fruits and vegetables were apples, pears, apple juice, apple sauce, bananas, cauliflower, chicory, cucumbers, and mushrooms. Each participant’s dietary intake of fruits and vegetables was measured at baseline using a food frequency questionnaire. Those results were then used to calculate grams of fruit and vegetables consumed per day. In addition, researchers assessed fruit and vegetable consumption during the winter and summer months separately to account for differences in seasons.
Researchers then analyzed the data, taking into account age, sex, total energy intake, smoking, alcohol intake, and other potential confounders. Overall, study participants consumed white fruits and vegetables in larger amounts than any other color category. Of those white fruits and vegetables, 55% were apples and pears.
The researchers listed the validity of the food frequency questionnaire for vegetables as a limitation to the study. In addition, the researchers considered the possibility of unknown residual confounders as another limitation to the study despite controlling for all known stroke risk factors. They also stated that additional research should be conducted to confirm their findings.
Despite this conclusion, one thing is clear – eating fruits and vegetables is good for you. This research only confirms what we already know, but with the potential added bonus that certain flavanoids, plant compounds with potential health benefits, found in varying colors of fruits and vegetables might have an additional benefit.
Reference: Oude Griep LM, Verschuren M, Kromhout D, Ocke MC, Geleijnse JM. Colors of Fruits and Vegetables and 10-Year Incidence of Stroke. Stroke. 2011; 42: 00-00.
Allison is a second year Nutrition Communication student and registered dietitian. She has a passion for communicating sound nutrition information to the public. Follow her kitchen blunders, triathlon adventures, and read nutrition advice on her blog, Choices.Habits.Lifestyle.