A person’s risk of getting a certain type of stroke may depend on the type of food they eat or avoid, according to research.
Scientists looked at the association between food and two major types of stroke – ischaemic and haemorrhagic.
Ischaemic stroke occurs due to a blockage in the artery cutting off the blood supply to the brain, while haemorrhagic stroke occurs when there is bleeding in the brain that damages surrounding cells.
They found higher intake of fibre to be linked to a decreased risk of ischaemic stroke, while greater consumption of eggs was associated with a higher chance of haemorrhagic stroke.
Dr Tammy Tong, the first author on the study and a nutritional epidemiologist at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, said: “The most important finding is that higher consumption of both dietary fibre and fruit and vegetables was strongly associated with lower risks of ischaemic stroke, which supports current European guidelines.
“The general public should be recommended to increase their fibre and fruit and vegetable consumption, if they are not already meeting these guidelines.
“Our study also highlights the importance of examining stroke subtypes separately, as the dietary associations differ for ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke, and is consistent with other evidence, which shows that other risk factors, such as cholesterol levels or obesity, also influence the two stroke subtypes differently.”
The researchers looked at data from more than 418,000 people in nine European countries, in one of the largest studies of its kind.
The participants completed questionnaires providing information about their diet, lifestyle and medical history. They were then followed up for an average of 12 years.
Around 4,281 cases of ischaemic stroke and 1,430 cases of haemorrhagic stroke were recorded during this time.
The study found higher intakes of fruit, vegetables, fibre, milk, cheese or yoghurt were each linked to a lower risk of ischaemic stroke.
But they found “no significant association” with these foods to a lower risk of haemorrhagic stroke.
Every 10g more intake of fibre a day was associated with a 23% lower risk of ischaemic stroke, the researchers said, which is equivalent to around two fewer cases per 1,000 of the population over 10 years.
Fruit and vegetables were associated with a 13% lower risk for every 200g eaten a day.
The researchers also found every extra 20g of eggs consumed a day was linked to a 25% higher risk of haemorrhagic stroke, which they said, was equivalent or around two cases per 3,000 people over 10 years.
Commenting on the research, Paul Evans, professor of cardiovascular science, University of Sheffield, who was not involved in the study, said: “A major strength of this study is that it captured data from a large cohort of individuals from nine European countries.
“However, although the research has discovered an association between dietary intake and stroke risk, it is possible that the altered stroke risk is not caused by the diet itself but is instead caused by associated socioeconomic or lifestyle factors.
“Further research is therefore needed to investigate whether diet has a direct influence on stroke risk.”
The research is published in the European Heart Journal.