More Fruits and Veggies Could Prevent Millions of Cardiovascular Deaths

Mounting research affirms the crucial role proper diet and nutrition play in preventing the most common causes of death
December 24, 2020 Updated: December 24, 2020

Low fruit and vegetable intake may be a major factor in heart disease deaths. Findings from a 2019 study found low fruit intake translated to almost 1.8 million cardiovascular deaths in 2010 while low vegetable consumption resulted in 1 million deaths. The cardiovascular impact of low fruit and vegetable consumption were most acute in countries with the lowest average consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Let’s have a closer look at the different factors that drive these findings—and how you can optimize your fruit and veggie intake for a healthy, thriving heart.

Eating More Vegetables May Prevent 82,000 US Deaths

Roughly 1 in 7 deaths from heart disease and strokes could be attributed to inadequate fruit consumption, while 1 in 12 deaths from the same diseases may be rooted in not eating enough vegetables, according to findings presented at Nutrition 2019, the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, in Baltimore.

Using dietary guidelines and existing studies on heart risk factors, the team defined optimal fruit intake as 300 grams (g) a day, which is equivalent to about two small apples. For vegetables, on the other hand, it’s 400 g a day, or about three cups of raw carrots.

The researchers then estimated average national fruit and vegetable intake from diet surveys and food availability data from 113 countries, or some 82 percent of the global population. In the U.S., suboptimal veggie consumption may account for some 82,000 cardiovascular deaths and poor fruit intake for 57,000 deaths.

Note that cardiovascular disease remains the No. 1 killer globally, taking about 17.9 million lives each year. Poor diet had the worst impact on younger adults when it came to age groups, and on men, as opposed to women, possibly because women may tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.

“Our findings indicate the need for population-based efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the world,” said Victoria Miller, lead study author and postdoc researcher at Tufts University, in a news release.

Part of why fruits and vegetables are so heart-friendly is that they are excellent sources of fiberpotassiummagnesiumantioxidants and phenolics, all proven beneficial in reducing blood pressure and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. They also enhance the diversity of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract and eating more fruits and vegetables makes you less likely to be overweight or obese, hence reducing the likelihood of heart disease.

Eat More Fruits and Veggies to Protect Your Heart

A 2014 study that was part of the Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study confirmed that a diet high in fruits and vegetables can slash the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The team, after analyzing the results and combining them with other studies’ findings, estimated that heart disease risk was 20 percent lower among subjects who consumed more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, versus those who ate fewer than three servings daily.

A 1999 study concluded that consuming fruits and vegetables, particularly cruciferous and green leafy vegetables along with citrus fruit, reduced the risk for ischemic stroke.

In 2003, another team of researchers found that daily consumption of green-yellow vegetables and fruits translated to a lower risk of total stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage and cerebral infarction mortality. What’s more, the protective effects were similar in men and women.

Plasma vitamin C, a biomarker that reflects fruit and vegetable intake, was inversely associated with heart failure risk in a healthy population in a 2011 study.

One takeaway from these studies is having a rainbow of fruits and vegetables on your plate every day can work wonders in preventing strokes, heart disease, and other illnesses. Read abstracts with vegetable research and abstracts with fruit research on the database for further potentially life-saving information.

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