ECU researcher’s work exploring stroke survivors’ diet wins women’s health award and funding

Australian Health Research Alliance has named Dr Simone Radavelli-Bagatini as one if its Women’s Health Research, Translation and Impact Network’s EMCR Award winners for 2023.

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ECU researcher’s work exploring stroke survivors’ diet wins women’s health award and funding

Research investigating how fruit and vegetables can benefit women after suffering a stroke has seen Dr Simone Radavelli-Bagatini win a highly sought-after Australian Health Research Alliance (AHRA) award.

Each year, the AHRA Women’s Health Research, Translation and Impact Network’s EMCR Awards distributes funding to early and mid-career female researchers who work across women’s health research.

Dr Radavelli-Bagatini named a 2023 EMCR Award winner due to her project aiming to understand the barriers and motivators for women post-stroke to consuming fruit and vegetables to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

Dr Radavelli-Bagatini’s project will not only consider the viewpoints from women who have had a stroke, but also their carers – a group who are also at a high risk of experiencing stroke.

“Older Australian women and their women carers are more likely to have a stroke, with three in four carers being women,” she said.

“Whilst the exact causes for this remain unclear, it may be partly related to an unhealthy diet and increased stress.

Older lady in wheelchair outside in a garden while younger female carer crouches on the ground talking to each other.

“We know stress affects women biologically and psychologically differently to men, with women being twice as likely to suffer anxiety and 2.5 times more likely to suffer depression than men at the same age.”

Despite increasing fruit and vegetable intake being a cornerstone of a healthy diet and essential for physical and mental wellbeing, less than 5 per cent of Australian adults eat the recommended intake.

Dr Radavelli-Bagatini said eating fruit and vegetable may be even lower in stroke survivors due to dysphagia, a difficulty with swallowing affecting up to 80 per cent of stroke patients in the acute phase, who therefore require texture modified diets.

“Our aim is to understand what will encourage and discourage increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in post-stroke women, be it access to food, availability, price or psychosocial and physical factors,” she said.

“In addition, we will also evaluate whether women post stroked will accept novel approaches to increasing fruit and vegetable intake, such as 3D-printed food using freeze-dried powders.”

ECU Associate Dean of Public Health Professor Amanda Devine said this is exciting new research that will make a difference to many people post stroke – including carers.

“Working with the consumers of our research from the get-go and truly understanding their needs ensures our research is getting to the heart of the problem,” Professor Devine said.

“Using the latest food technology ensures foods provided are nutrient dense, supply key nutrients to support wellbeing and a part of the solution.”

Credit: ECU Newsroom

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