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Plant Isoflavones May Help Stroke Patients

Dietary supplements rich in plant compounds called isoflavones may improve the function of arteries in stroke patients, according to a study published in the October 2008 edition of European Heart Health.

Isoflavones are a type of polyphenol high in antioxidants. They can be found most abundantly in red clover and soy beans and have been associated with a number of health benefits like relief from menopausal symptoms, reducing bone loss and decreased risk of prostate cancer.

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong recruited 102 stroke patients for this recent study. For 12 weeks half of the participants received a daily isoflavone supplement and the other half received a placebo.

The researchers used an ultrasound to measure something called flow-mediated dilation (FMD). FMD is used to measure a blood vessel's ability to relax and expand to allow blood to flow freely. The better the FMD, the easier it is for blood to flow.

At the beginning of the study the participants had an average FMD of 2%, and 80% of them were considered to have an impaired FMD (under 3.7%). By the end of the study only 58% of the isoflavone group still had impaired FMD compared to 79% in the control group.

Researchers also found that the isoflavone supplement was associated with a decrease in the levels of a protein called high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a marker for inflammation and is also used to predict the likelihood of cardiovascular events.

This study could be cause for hope in stroke victims around the world. While more research needs to be done to confirm these results, the study seems to show promise for the use of isoflavone supplementation in stroke patient care.
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