Eating more fiber may decrease the risk of first-time stroke, according to a data analysis.
Previous research has shown that dietary fiber may help reduce risk factors for stroke, including hypertension and high serum levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
In the new study, published March 28 on the website of the journal Stroke, researchers found that each seven-gram increase in total daily fiber intake was associated with a 7% decrease in first-time stroke risk. One serving of whole wheat pasta plus two servings of fruits or vegetables provides about seven grams of fiber, the researchers said.
“Greater intake of fiber-rich foods — such as whole-grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts — are important for everyone, and especially for those with stroke risk factors like being overweight, smoking and having high blood pressure,” Diane Threapleton, MSc, PhD, a study author from the University of Leeds School of Food Science & Nutrition in the United Kingdom, said in a news release.
The researchers analyzed eight studies published between 1990 and 2012. The studies reported on all types of stroke, with four specifically examining the risk of ischemic stroke and three assessing hemorrhagic stroke. The researchers combined findings from the observational studies and accounted for other stroke risk factors, such as age and smoking.
The results were based on total dietary fiber. The researchers did not find an association specifically with soluble fiber and stroke risk, and lacked enough data to make any conclusions specifically on insoluble fiber.
The average daily fiber intake among U.S. adults is lower than the American Heart Associations recommendation of at least 25 grams per day, according to an AHA news release. Six to eight servings of grains and eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables can provide the recommended amount.
“We must educate consumers on the continued importance of increasing fiber intake and help them learn how to increase fiber in their diet,” Threapleton said.
In the United States, stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death, killing more than 137,000 people annually. Among survivors, the disease is a leading cause of disability.
In addition to following a nutritious diet, the American Heart Association recommends being physically active and avoiding tobacco to help prevent stroke and other heart and blood vessel diseases.
The study abstract is available at http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/03/27/STROKEAHA.111.000151.abstract.