A study due to be presented at a conference later this year suggests that eating foods containing vitamin C, such as oranges, peppers, strawberries, papaya and broccoli, may be linked to a reduced risk for hemorrhagic stroke.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the US, where every year 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke and 130,000 die from one.

There are two main types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic stroke, by far the most common type, is where a blockage in a blood vessel stops blood from getting to one or more parts of the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke is much rarer but more deadly and occurs when a weakened blood vessel in the brain ruptures and allows blood to leak into and around the brain.

Study author Dr. Stéphane Vannier, of Pontchaillou University Hospital in Rennes, France, says:

“Our results show that vitamin C deficiency should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke, as were high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and being overweight in our study.”

The study compared 65 patients who had experienced a hemorrhagic stroke with 65 healthy counterparts.

Both groups underwent blood tests that checked their vitamic C levels. The results showed that 41% of all participants had normal levels, 45% had depleted levels, and 14% had levels so low they were considered deficient in vitamin C.

However, on average, the participants who had experienced a stroke had depleted levels, while the ones who had not had a stroke had normal levels of vitamin C in their blood.

The results have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal. The American Academy of Neurology released these details to the media in advance of its 66th Annual Meeting, due to take place in Philadelphia, PA, at the end of April, when fuller details of the study will be presented.

Dr. Vannier says more research is now needed to confirm the findings and find out how vitamin C works to reduce stroke risk.

He suggests one way vitamin C might reduce stroke risk could be by reducing blood pressure, and he adds that vitamin C has other benefits, like helping to make collagen, a protein that gives structure to skin, bones and tissue.

If confirmed, the findings add to a growing body of evidence linking dietary factors to risk of stroke. In a study published in 2012, researchers found that consuming chocolate may lower risk of any stroke. They found men who ate the largest amounts of chocolate had a 17% lower risk of stroke than men who never or very rarely ate it.

In another study Medical News Today reported recently, researchers found that vitamin C may boost chemotherapy.