According to a new UK study, consuming at least eight portions of fruits and vegetables a day may lower the risk of fatal heart disease by up to 22%.
In the observational study 313,074 men and women (between 40 and 85 years of age) from eight European countries, who had not suffered previous myocardial infarction or strokes, were followed for an average of 8.4 years to assess the relation between their fruit and vegetable intake and their risk of mortality from ischemic heart disease (1). Dietary intake and lifestyle factors (e.g., smoking, alcohol intake, physical exercise) were measured by country-specific questionnaires. The results showed that participants consuming at least eight portions (80 g each) of fruit and vegetables a day had a 22% lower risk of fatal heart disease (IHD) compared with those consuming fewer than three portions a day. Each portion increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables was associated with a 4% lower risk of dying from IHD.
The researchers commented that it remains unclear whether this association is causal. Also unknown are the biological mechanisms by which fruits and vegetables operate to lower the risks of damaged heart muscles due to a reduced blood supply to the heart. There is, however, a long-standing hypothesis that various antioxidant micronutrients present in fruits and vegetables lower the risk of heart disease by reducing the degree of atherosclerosis caused by oxidative damage (2).
Results from several observational studies have suggested that a high fruit and vegetable intake reduces the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). In 2003 the World Health Organization concluded that there was convincing evidence that fruits and vegetables lower the risk of CHD and recommended an intake of 400-500 g/day, equivalent to five or six portions of about 80 g each (3).