If you avoid eating fruit for fear of natural sugar, you might want to rethink your diet. According to new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, people who eat fresh fruit on most days of the week are at lower risk of heart attack and stroke than people who rarely eat fresh fruit.
The findings come from a 7-year study of half a million adults in China, where fresh fruit consumption is much lower than in countries like the UK, Canada and the US.
Researchers from the University of Oxford and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences conducted a large, nationwide study of 500,000 adults from 10 urban and rural localities across China, tracking health for 7 years through death records and electronic hospital records of illness. The present study was among people who did not have a history of cardiovascular diseases or anti-hypertensive treatments when first joined the study.
Fruit is a rich source of potassium, dietary fibre, antioxidants, and various other potentially active compounds, and contains little sodium or fat and relatively few calories.
Eating half of an apple or one small orange, most days, guards against cardiovascular death
The study found that fruit consumption (which was mainly apples or oranges) was strongly associated with many other factors, such as education, lower blood pressure, lower blood glucose, and not smoking.
After accounting for these factors, eating a 100-gram portion of fruit per day was associated with about one-third less cardiovascular mortality in both men and women.
A 100-gram serving of fruit is equivalent to 1 small orange, one-half of a large apple, 1 small banana and ¾ cup of blueberries.
The researchers said "the association between fruit consumption and cardiovascular risk seems to be stronger in China, where many still eat little fruit, than in high-income countries where daily consumption of fruit is more common."
Also, fruit in China is almost exclusively consumed raw, whereas much of the fruit in high-income countries is processed, and many previous studies combined fresh and processed fruit.
The researchers say it’s difficult to know whether the lower risk in people who eat more fresh fruit is because of a real protective effect. If it is, then widespread consumption of fresh fruit in China could prevent about half a million cardiovascular deaths a year, including 200,000 before age 70, and even larger numbers of non-fatal strokes and heart attacks.
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