Public Release: 

Cardiovascular benefits of long-term fruit and vegetable consumption

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Consumption of nutrients that are abundant in fruits and vegetables--such as antioxidants and folic acid--has been linked to a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, long-term studies focusing on whole-food consumption, as opposed to single micronutrients, are useful because they demonstrate the prolonged and cumulative benefits of a healthy diet. Publishing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Bazzano et al. examined the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of CVD and stroke in a large group of subjects over a period of roughly 2 decades. They found that stroke incidence and mortality, as well as mortality from ischemic heart disease and CVD, were all significantly reduced in those who consumed at least 3 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

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.

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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.

This media release is provided by The American Society for Clinical Nutrition to provide current information on nutrition-related research. This information should not be construed as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, consult your doctor. To see the complete text of this article, please go to:

http://www.faseb.org/ajcn/July/13347-He.pdf

http://www.faseb.org/ajcn/July/13785-Rimm.pdf

For more information, please contact: jhe@tulane.edu or erimm@hsph.harvard.edu

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