Eating peanuts, vegetables beneficial in preventing stroke, heart disease

A study that investigated the frequency with which people reported eating peanuts in connection with cardiovascular disease, has shown that adding peanuts to the diet has a beneficial effect on the prevention of stroke.

Stroke remains a leading cause of long-term disability and the second most common cause of death worldwide. It is particularly pertinent in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where nearly 80 per cent of stroke mortalities worldwide occur, and the burden of stroke is projected to increase in the coming decades.

The analysis included more than 74,000 Asian men and women aged 45 to 74 from a prospective study based in the Japan Public Health Center in two stages, 1995 and 1998 to 1999.

The individuals, who were monitored for about 15 years until 2009 or 2012, completed a comprehensive lifestyle survey that included a questionnaire on how often peanuts were consumed.

According to medical records, researchers noted 3,599 strokes (2,223 ischemic and 1,376 hemorrhagic) and 849 cases of ischemic heart disease developed during the follow-up period.

The researchers had determined the incidence of stroke and ischemic heart disease in the 78 participating hospitals in the region. The average participant consumed about 1.5 peanuts per day, with consumption ranging from zero peanuts per day in the lowest quartile to 4.3 peanuts per day in the highest.

The study was published in Stroke, a journal of the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, with considerations on how other health conditions, smoking, diet, alcohol consumption and physical activity could have altered their investigation.

Results revealed that higher peanut consumption was consistent in reducing the risks for total stroke, ischemic stroke and CVD among men and women. Specifically, compared to a peanut-free diet, eating about four to five unshelled peanuts per day was associated with 20 per cent lower risk of ischemic stroke; 16 per cent lower risk of total stroke; and 13 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Peanuts are rich in heart-healthy nutrients such as monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, and dietary fibre. It reduces “high blood pressure” and “bad high blood levels”, hence its benefit in lowering the risk for cardiovascular disease.

The study’s lead author, Satoyo Ikehara, at the Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine in Suita, Japan, stated: “The habit of eating peanuts and tree nuts is still not common in Asian countries.

However, adding even a small amount to one’s diet could be a simple yet effective approach to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

What is more, a recent report from an analysis of 76,464 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and 42,498 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) found that nut consumption was inversely associated with all-cause, cancer-specific, and heart disease-specific mortality.

While previous studies have linked peanut consumption to improved cardiovascular health among Americans, researchers in Nigeria and Ghana indicated that daily intake of leafy green vegetables can prevent stroke in blacks.

This was a Stroke Investigative Research and Educational Network (SIREN) study that recruited 2,118 adults with stroke and 2,118 stroke-free controls from 15 health facilities in Nigeria and Ghana over a three-year period. And it had identified 11 potentially modifiable risk factors for stroke in Nigerians.

SIREN’s principal investigator, Professor Mayowa Owolabi, declared low green leafy vegetable consumption as one of the potentially modifiable risk factors for stroke in Nigerians.

According to him, “Folic acid, also known as vitamin B12, can actually reduce the risk of stroke whether it is in people who are hypertensive or those who are not hypertensive. In the SIREN study, we found that consumption of green leafy vegetables is protective. It drastically and substantially reduces the risk of stroke.

“Regardless of eating it cooked or raw, green leafy vegetables when consumed frequently reduce the risk of stroke substantially and we think that folic acid may be one of the reasons.

“We also know that folic acid could actually prevent stroke in those who have problems with elevated homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that naturally circulates in the blood are believed to increase the chance of heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis.”

Moreover, in another study that looked at 30 potential risk factors for stroke in Ghana and Nigeria, the researchers also identified regular meat consumption as the third major possible reason for stroke in Nigeria and Ghana.

According to the researchers, the chances of a person developing stroke from the study were associated with 11 potentially modifiable risk factors.

In descending order, these were hypertension, high cholesterol or fat level (dyslipidaemia), regular meat consumption, pot belly (high waist-to-hip ratio), diabetes, low green leafy vegetable consumption, stress, added salt at the table, heart disease, physical inactivity, and current cigarette smoking.

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