Flavonoids, Antioxidants Found In Citrus, Tied With Lower Stroke Risk: Study

02/26/2012 11:04 am ET

Oranges are in season right now, and a new study shows why it might be a good idea to stock up.

Research published in the journal Stroke shows that flavonoids, a kind of antioxidant in citrus fruits and tea, seem to be linked with a lower ischemic stroke risk in women. (Ischemic stroke occurs when the brain's blood flow is blocked.)

Particularly, the researchers found that the women in the study who consumed the most flavonoids in their diets over a 14-year period had a 19 percent lower risk of stroke, compared with the women who consumed the fewest flavonoids.

"Our study supports the conclusion that flavanones are associated with a modest reduction in stroke risk," study researcher Kathryn M. Rexrode, MD, MPH, of Boston's Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, told CBS News. However, she did note that more research is needed to confirm the link, and that she doesn't recommend people to take supplements of flavanone because of the finding.

The study included 70,000 women who participated in the Nurses Health Study. The researchers found that tea seemed to be the biggest source of flavonoids in the women's diets, followed by fruits like apples and oranges or orange juice, Medpage Today reported.

ABC News pointed out that the study didn't say just how many citrus fruits women need to consume to get the benefit, nor was the study able to definitively say that the reduced stroke risk was because of the flavonoids.

"This study adds absolutely nothing to the relationship between fruit and strokes," ABC News' chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser said in the ABC News article. "The conclusions of the study go beyond the data."

American Heart Association spokesperson Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, who is also a Penn State nutrition professor, told CBS News that the overall message of the study, though, is a good one: that it's good for you to eat a diet full of fruits and veggies.

Past research has shown that flavonoids -- which are also found in leafy greens and yellow, orange and red-colored fruits -- could also help to lower the risk of heart attack in women with Type 2 diabetes, as well as combat insulin resistance and lower cholesterol levels.

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