The research, part of the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I), involved prolonged follow-up of 9608 adults ages 25-74 who were randomly distributed by sex, race, and sociological group. All subjects were free of CVD at the study's inception between 1971-1975, and follow-up data on dietary intake, disease and mortality were collected in 1982-84, 1986, 1987, and 1992. In determining average daily servings of fruit and vegetables, the researchers used both a 3-month food frequency questionnaire detailing the subjects' usual consumption and a 24-hour dietary recall record. Those who had consumed at least 3 servings per day of fruits and vegetables had a 27% lower incidence of stroke and 42% lower stroke mortality rate among all subjects, and risk of death from ischemic heart disease and CVD was reduced by 24% and 27%, respectively. Men appeared to benefit more than women and whites more than nonwhites from frequent fruit and vegetable consumption with a few exceptions, such as a 53% reduction in stroke mortality for women versus a 23% reduction for men. A 15% reduction in risk from death for all causes was related to the frequent association of fruit and vegetable consumption with other healthy habits such as regular exercise, refraining from smoking, and having a low dietary intake of cholesterol and saturated fat.
An accompanying editorial by Rimm emphasizes that the true benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption may be even higher than those found in the NHANES I Study, which designated only "low" (<1 serving/day) or "moderate" (at least 3 servings/day) intake of fruits and vegetables. Recent advances in the development of eating pattern scores may translate more readily into complete dietary guidelines for the public that could maximize the CVD-preventative potential of a healthy diet.
Bazzano, Lydia A. Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of cardiovascular disease in US adults: the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Epidemiologic Follow-up Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:93-9.
Rimm, Eric B. Fruit and vegetables--building a solid foundation. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:1-2.
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