A new study suggests that eating ten portions of fruits and vegetables per day can reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer and early death. The study results also showed that even smaller amounts of fruits and vegetables had some protective benefits.
Scientists from Imperial College London analyzed 95 studies on fruit and vegetable intake. The meta-analysis included 2 million people from populations worldwide and assessed up to 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 81,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, 112,000 cancer cases and 94,000 deaths.
They estimated that if everyone ate this amount, equivalent to about 800 grams, or 28 ounces, approximately 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide could be prevented.
“We wanted to investigate how much fruit and vegetables you need to eat to gain the maximum protection against disease and premature death. Our results suggest that although five portions of fruit and vegetables is good, 10 a day is even better,” said Dr. Dagfinn Aune, lead author of the research from the School of Public Health at Imperial.
“Fruit and vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure and to boost the health of our blood vessels and immune system,” said Aune. “This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold. For instance they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage and lead to a reduction in cancer risk.”
Compounds called glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, activate enzymes that may help prevent cancer. Fruit and vegetables may also have a beneficial effect on the naturally occurring bacteria in our gut, he said.
“We need further research into the effects of specific types of fruits and vegetables and preparation methods of fruit and vegetables. We also need more research on the relationship between fruit and vegetable intake with causes of death other than cancer and cardiovascular disease. However, it is clear from this work that a high intake of fruit and vegetables hold tremendous health benefits, and we should try to increase their intake in our diet,” Dr. Dagfinn Aune added.
The results are published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.