To investigate, researchers from the University of Oxford in the UK studied data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Heart Study, involving more than 300,000 people between the ages of 40 and 85, from eight different European countries.
Researchers found that people who ate at least eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day had a staggering 22% lower risk of dying from IHD than did those who consumed fewer than three portions a day. A portion weighed 80 grams, equal to a small banana, a medium apple, or a small carrot. Although researchers report that only 18% of the men and women in the study consumed eight portions a day, or 640g.
Ischaemic heart disease (IHD) is characterised by reduced blood supply to the heart; people suffering from it can develop angina, chest pains and have a heart attack.
Participants answered questions about their diet at the time of entry to the study and other questions about health, socio-economic status and life-style, such as smoking, drinking and exercise habits. They were followed-up for an average of nearly eight and a half years.
The researchers found that the average intake of fruit and vegetables was five portions a day; people in Greece, Italy and Spain ate more, and those in Sweden ate less.
Researchers warn that a higher fruit and vegetable intake occurred among people with other healthy eating habits and lifestyles, and that these factors could also be associated with the lower risk of dying from IHD.
The study findings were published this week in the European Heart Journal.
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