Editorial: Eating More Fruits and Vegetables Reduces Premature Death Risk

Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables at market

Fruits and vegetables at a farmers market

Fruits and vegetables lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer deaths.  

Most of the world, including the United States, eats too few fruits and vegetables.  I can remember trying to get my son to eat more vegetables during his elementary school carnivore stage.  Adults are equally resistant to eat them.  I have coworkers who refuse to eat them, and they are in their 40s and 50s.  I found a study that highlights a few benefits of eating more servings of these beauties on MedLine Plus[1].  With the release of this new study, there is more reason to consume them because the study has shown that eating a higher level of fruits and vegetables will reduce premature deaths by 15% worldwide.  

The study:   The research is a meta-analysis performed by Imperial College London and was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology[2].  The analysis was conducted on 95 prior studies on 2 million people worldwide. 

What kind of deaths did it prevent?  Premature deaths were reduced by 15.  These means that the risk of dying at an earlier age than expected was reduced.  Most notably, there was a risk reduction for premature death from coronary artery disease (24 %), stroke (33%), total cardiovascular disease (28%), cancer (14%), and all-cause mortality (31%).   These means that there were an overall morbidity and mortality reduction of 31%.  That is pretty significant but not surprising because we already know that yellow and green vegetables help prevent cancer and fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, so this result was expected.  

Fruit bowl

Fruit bowl

Are any particular fruits or vegetables better than other?  The analysis identified the benefits from apples, pears, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.), and green and yellow vegetables (green beans, spinach, carrots, peppers, etc.).   Cancer risk reduction was greatest with green vegetables, such as spinach or green beans, yellow vegetables, such as peppers and carrots, and cruciferous vegetables.

Does this risk reduction work for this with bad habits?  The research did take into account negative factors such as weight, smoking, physical activity levels, and overall diet.  They found that fruit and vegetables were beneficial in these groups with less than ideal lifestyles.

How much fruit is ideal?  The team did not look at fruit and vegetable intake over ten servings a day.  Based on the results, the level of risk reduction is directly proportional to the number of servings of fruits and vegetables you eat.  In other words, the more fruit you eat, the more risk you reduce.  Above that, there is not an indication of further benefit because they did not study it.  

The Bottom Line:  Living longer is not about only about how much you eat but also what you eat.  Eating more fruit and vegetables will reduce your weight and lower your risk of premature death.  I recommend at least 8-10 searching a day.  More research could be done to look at even larger intakes. 

[1]Dotinga, “10 Daily Servings of Fruits, Veggies a Recipe for Longevity.”
[2]Aune et al., “Fruit and Vegetable Intake and the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Total Cancer and All-Cause Mortality–a Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies.”
Aune, Dagfinn, Edward Giovannucci, Paolo Boffetta, Lars T. Fadnes, NaNa Keum, Teresa Norat, Darren C. Greenwood, Elio Riboli, Lars J. Vatten, and Serena Tonstad. “Fruit and Vegetable Intake and the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Total Cancer and All-Cause Mortality–a Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies.” International Journal of Epidemiology. Oxford University Press (OUP), February 22, 2017. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyw319
Dotinga, Randy . “10 Daily Servings of Fruits, Veggies a Recipe for Longevity.” MedLinePlus, February 23, 2017. https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_163748.html.
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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