A new European study has analyzed the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of mortality and concluded that fruit and vegetable consumption reduces all-cause mortality, and especially death from cardiovascular disease.
The benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption are not a new discovery. However, new research confirms their role in reducing mortality.
The analysis was directed by researchers from ten countries, including Spain, as part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).
The sample analyzed includes 25,682 deaths (10,438 due to cancer and 5,125 due to cardiovascular disease) among the 451,151 participants studied over more than 13 years.
According to the results, a combined fruit and vegetable consumption of more than 569 grams per day (7 servings) reduced the risk of mortality by 10% and delayed the risk of dying by 1.12 years compared to a consumption of less than 249 grams per day (one-half serving).
Furthermore, for every 200-gram increase in daily fruit and vegetable consumption, the risk fell by 6%. The proportion of deaths that could be prevented if everyone eating too few fruit and vegetables increased their consumption by 100-200 grams per day -- thus reaching the minimum recommended 400-500 grams per day (5 servings) -- is 2.9%.
Previous studies already noted that fruit and vegetable consumption, in accordance with the recommended daily allowance, prevents the development of chronic diseases and reduces the risk of mortality by 10-25%.
"There is now sufficient evidence of the beneficial effect of fruit and vegetable consumption in the prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases," Sánchez states, "for this reason, one of the most effective preventative measures is promoting their consumption in the population."
Fruit for the heart
A diet rich in fruit and vegetables reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality by 15%. Furthermore, more than 4% of deaths due to cardiovascular disease could be prevented by eating more than 400 grams (5 servings) of fruit and vegetables per day.
Considering fruit consumption separately, no significant risk reduction was observed, whereas vegetable consumption alone was associated with a lower risk of mortality, which was even more significant for raw vegetables: high consumption reduces the risk of mortality by 16%.
Greater effect in people with bad habits
The mortality risk reduction due to fruit and vegetable consumption was greater in those participants who consumed alcohol (around 30-40% risk reduction), who were obese (20%), and possibly also in those who smoked.
This positive effect is probably due to their high antioxidant content, which mitigates the oxidative stress caused by alcohol, tobacco and obesity.
Source: American Journal of Epidemiology, September 2013.
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