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updated: 1/24/2012 6:00 AM

Eating raw fruits, veggies a healthy idea

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It is common knowledge that eating fresh fruits and vegetables is healthy. Some have promoted that raw fruits and vegetables are better for your health than processed or cooked fruits and vegetables … and they may be right. Recent research is showing that a diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables significantly reduces the risk of stroke.

A stroke is a rapid loss of blood flow to the brain resulting in temporary or permanent brain damage. There are two basic types of strokes: ischemic stroke caused by a blockage in the arteries and hemorrhagic stroke caused by bleeding in or around the brain. Strokes are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of long term disability. Every year in the U.S., almost 800,000 people suffer a stroke, and three quarters of all strokes annually are new strokes.

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Although strokes can occur at any age, 75 percent of all strokes occur in people over 65. Risk factors for stroke include age, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and elevated cholesterol. The annual medical and total cost of stroke is estimated at $28 billion and $43 billion respectively.

There is robust medical research suggesting that eating fruits and vegetables is healthy and reduces the risk of many diseases including stoke, cancer and heart disease. However, some suggest that there is a big difference between eating raw fruits and vegetables and processed fruits and vegetables. In the processing (cooking, freezing and thawing, etc.) of the fruit or vegetable, some nutrients and enzymes are lost.

Two recent medical publications demonstrated the medical benefits of raw fruits and vegetables, especially regarding strokes. One study, done in the Netherlands and published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, evaluated 20,069 women and men, 20 to 65 years old. They were followed for 10 years and were healthy at the start of the study. During that 10-year study, 233 participants experienced a stroke. Those in the high intake of raw fruit and vegetables group had a 30 percent reduction in strokes. These who consumed raw fruits and vegetables also had fewer strokes than those who ate processed fruit and vegetables.

The second study was a subset of the original study with 20,069 participants. In this study, researchers discovered that eating white fruits, primarily apples and pears, was strongly preventive regarding strokes. It seems that the adage "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" may be true.

If, by eating raw fruits and vegetables, the incidence of stroke could be reduced by 30 percent, about 240,000 strokes per year would be prevented and billions of dollars saved. On a daily basis, I strongly recommend raw fruits and vegetables for my patients … the cost-benefit ratio seems to be pretty positive.


• Patrick B. Massey, M.D., Ph.D is medical director for complementary and alternative medicine for the Alexian Brothers Hospital Network. His website is www.alt-med.org.

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