We’ve heard the old adage that an apple a day keeps the doctor away and we’ve been told by scientists and health care professionals to increase the number of servings of fruits and veggies we eat for decades. Now, research published March 31, 2014 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests that eating seven or more servings of fruits and veggies every day may keep death at bay.
Previous research discovered that those who consume more fruits and veggies each day have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, eye disorders and even prevents some types of cancer. Fruits, and particularly veggies, are nutrient dense, containing phytonutrients that offer wide-ranging benefits to humans.
Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends that Americans make half their plate fruits and veggies at each meal. The United Kingdom government recommends five servings of fruits and veggies daily. According to the Harvard School of Public Health the average American only consumes a meager three servings of fruits and veggies when you don’t count potatoes.
The authors of the study concede that the cardiovascular benefits of eating more fruits and veggies have been clearly established. However, they set out to get a more definitive answer on the cancer connection to this practice.
Data from the national health surveys for England between 2001 and 2008, which included more than 65,000 randomly selected adults, aged 35 or older, was analyzed to determine the mortality risk benefits of eating fruits and veggies. Deaths and fruit and veggie consumption was tracked among the included adults.
What the study authors found was that the higher the intake of fruits and veggies the lower the risk of overall mortality. Oyinlola Oyebode, PhD, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCL, London, and her colleagues discovered that that eating at least seven portions daily decreased the risk of death from all causes 42 percent. The risk of death from cancer and heart disease was reduced 25 and 31 percent respectively.
Not surprisingly, the researchers also discovered that veggies appear to be more protective than fruits. Two to three daily portions of veggies provided a 19 percent reduction in all causes of mortality, while the equivalent amount of fruit decreased risk 10 percent. Each portion of salad or veggies consumed was associated with a 12 to 15 percent lower risk of death according to the study.
Another interesting finding of the study was that fresh and dried fruit strongly diminished the risk of death, whereas frozen or canned fruit seemed to increase the risk of death by 17 percent. The authors suggest the reason for this finding may be the added sugar in processed fruits.
These findings suggest that governments and other agencies may want to revise their recommendations for fruit and veggie intake to seven or more portions. And it adds to the reasons consumers should strive to get more fruits and veggies into their daily diet.