HealthDay News — A compound found in oranges, grapefruit and other citrus fruit may lower stroke risk in women, results from an observational study suggest.

Women who consumed the highest levels of flavanone were 19% less likely to experience an ischemic stroke during a 14-year study period than those who consumed the least flavanone (P=0.04), Aedín Cassidy, PhD, from the Norwich Medical School in the United Kingdom, and colleagues reported in Stroke.

They conducted a prospective study among 69,622 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study. Total flavonoid and subclass intakes were calculated from semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaires collected every four years. A total of 1,803 strokes were confirmed during the study period.

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After adjusting for other variables, women in the highest quintile of flavanone intake had a relative risk (RR) of ischemic stroke of 0.81 (95% CI: 0.66-0.99), compared with the lowest quintile. Consumption of citrus fruit and juice, showed a similar trend (relative risk 0.90, 95% CI 0.77 to 1.05). The benefit however, was not observed with total flavanoid intake (P=0.36 for trend).

The majority of the women who participated in the study reported orange and grapefruit juice as the main source of the nutrient (63%). Flavanone intake ranged from an average 761 mg per day in the top quintile to 97 mg per day in the bottom quintile.

“Given the higher flavanone content of citrus fruits and the sugar content of commercial fruit juices, public health recommendations should focus on increasing citrus fruit intake,” the researchers wrote.

More randomized trials are needed to test flavanone and citrus foods for reduction of ischemic stroke risk, they concluded.

Cassidy A et al. Stroke. 2012; doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.637835.