Tomatoes, watermelons, peppers reduce stroke risk, Finnish study suggests

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Finnish study has indicated that having higher body levels of lycopene — a red chemical occurring in tomatoes, watermelons, grapefruit, peppers, and papaya — may reduce the risk of stroke. The research for the study, which is in the issue of medical journal Neurology released today, examined 1,031 men aged between 42 and 61 over a period of twelve years on average.

The study, which was financed by the Lapland Central Hospital, found that the men with higher amounts of lycopene in their blood system experienced fewer strokes than men with lower levels. Eleven strokes occurred amongst the 259 men in the highest of the four lycopene level categories while 25 of the 258 men in the categories with the lowest lycopene level categories experienced strokes. This suggests a stroke was 55% less likely if one had a high amount of the chemical in one's diet than if one had a low amount.

"The results support the recommendation that people get more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day," said Dr Jouni Karppi of the Department of Medicine at the University of Eastern Finland. Eating these types of foods in such quantities "would likely lead to a major reduction in the number of strokes worldwide, according to previous research", the primary author of the study continued. He added that inflammation and blood clotting — the cause of ischemic strokes, the most common type of stroke — occurred less frequently.

In the US state of New York, Lenox Hill Hospital Center for Stroke and Neuro-Endovascular Surgery director Dr. Rafael Ortiz said that, alongside exercise and non-smoking, "diet is very important" for reducing the likelihood of stroke. However, these results "should not deter people from eating other types of fruit and vegetables as they all have health benefits and remain an important part of a staple diet", according to Dr Clare Walton of The Stroke Association in the UK.

The results came as part of a wider study on cardiovascular disease development risks. The United States Department of Agriculture also registers high concentrations of lycopene in tomato purées, pastes and sauces. All those surveyed lived in, or in close proximity to, the Finnish town of Kuopio, where the University of Eastern Finland is located.