That old adage promoting an apple each and every day for better health just got a boost from science. A significant Dutch study found that eating apples and pears is associated to a reduced chance of stroke.
Apple a day
The findings counter the widespread belief that your most healthful fruit and veggies are the types which come in deep, rich colors inside and out. The dark green of spinach and deep red of raspberries are made by phytochemicals which are associated with better heart health and lower rates of cancer, prompting the more common advice to “eat your colors.” Apples and pears, although red, light green or yellow externally, are generally considered “white” fruits since the interior of the fruit, which represents the biggest edible portion, is white.
Researchers from the Netherlands decided they would track vegetable and fruit intake based on the color of the biggest edible part of the food. The categories were green (broccoli, kale, spinach and lettuce), orange/yellow (oranges, carrots and peaches), red/purple (cherries, grapes, beets andtomatoes) and white (apples, pears, bananas and cauliflower). The investigators analyzed data collected from 20,069 women and men who took part in the Dutch Morgen study, which represents Monitoring Project on Risk Factors and Chronic Diseases. All of the participants, ages 20 to 65, were healthy and free from heart problems from the beginning. Case study subjects completed food questionnaires detailing their eating habits. Over the next 10 years, the investigators documented 233 strokes among the list of study participants.
There was clearly no relationship between stroke risk and eating of any of the brightly colored fruits and vegetables. However, individuals who consumed at the very least 171 grams of white produce daily - equivalent to about one medium to large apple - had a 52 percent lower chance of stroke than others who ate fewer than 78 grams of white fruit a day. On average, every 25 grams of white fruit eaten daily was associated with a 9 percent lower risk for stroke. Although the white category contained numerous foods, the investigators found out that apples, pears and applesauce were the most frequent foods eaten in that particular category.
When analyzed separately, apples and pears accounted for a 7 percent decline in stroke risk for every 25 grams eaten each day. The strength of the study is that it analyzed a large, population-based study group. The downside is that ways of eating were based on people’s own recollections of fruit and vegetable consumption, so the data may not be reliable. For example, vegetables like onions or peppers that happen to be often chopped and mixed in with foods are not as easy to remember when a person is filling out a dietary questionnaire, so it may be that those foods are under represented in contrast to apples, which are relatively easy to remember eating.
Why apples and pears might reduce stroke risk isn’t known, though both fruits are rich sources of dietary fiber, which can be associated with lowering blood pressure. Both fruits also contain a number of nutrients and phytochemicals, along with the flavonol quercetin, which may have anti-inflammatory properties. The investigators noted that the findings ought to be replicated in other large studies before specific recommendations are made about consumption of white fruits. “Previous prospective cohort studies found that high vegetable and fruit consumption lowers the chance of stroke,” Linda Oude Griep of the division of human nutrition at Wageningen University said in an e-mail.
“This could be the first study on color groups of fruits and veggies and stroke, soyes, these results were surprising. However, these findings need to be confirmed in more prospective cohort studies before definite conclusions can be made.” The research was financed by several Dutch and European public health agencies, although a part of the cost was paid by an unrestricted grant from the Dutch Product Board for Horticulture, which promotes agricultural interests in the region.