Diet-MediterraneanDiet-NutritionHeart DiseaseStroke

Antioxidants and the risk of stroke in women

Eating antioxidant-rich foods may reduce the risk of stroke.

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet, in Stockholm, Sweden, examined the association between dietary total antioxidant capacity and stroke incidence in 2 groups of women.

Total antioxidant capacity accounts for all antioxidants and their synergistic effects.

First, the details.

  • More than 36,000 women with or free of cardiovascular disease were evaluated using a food frequency questionnaire.
  • Dietary total antioxidant capacity was calculated using oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) values.
    • ORAC is a method of measuring antioxidant capacities in biological samples.
  • Stroke cases were based medical records from the Swedish Hospital Discharge Registry.

And, the results.

  • During follow-up there were 1322 stroke cases among women free of cardiovascular disease and 1007 stroke cases among women with a history of cardiovascular disease.
  • Fruit and vegetables contributed to about half the total antioxidant capacity for women with the highest total antioxidant capacity.
    • Other key foods included whole grains at 18%, tea 16%, and chocolate 5%.
  • Those in the highest dietary total antioxidant capacity had a 17% lower risk of developing stroke vs those with the lowest levels – a significant difference.
  • The risk of hemorrhagic stroke was from 46% to 57% lower among the women in the highest three highest levels of dietary total antioxidant capacity vs those in the lowest level.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “The observed inverse association between dietary total antioxidant capacity and stroke persisted after adjustments for potential confounders related to healthy behavior such as smoking, physical activity, and education.”

One word of caution: It’s possible, say the authors, “that women with a high antioxidant intake may be more health conscious and have the sort of healthy behaviors that may have influenced our results.”

1/2/12 20:16 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.