FEB 23, 2017 02:03 PM PST

More is More When it Comes to Fruits, Veggies, and Health

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Fruits and veggie lovers rejoice as a new study just doubled the daily recommended amount of these foods from five portions per day to 10 per day. Doing so could prevent a host of diseases and reduce the risk for premature deaths, the study reported. Alas, this means that meat lovers may want to scale up their vegetable consumption.

Currently, nutritionists and dieticians recommend five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. For reference, a single portion (cup) is around 80 grams or 3 ounces, which is roughly equivalent to a small banana or apple. The five servings of these foods are further broken down in favor of vegetables. That is, three portions of vegetables to every two portions of fruits.

If consuming fruits and vegetables contributes to health benefits, such as reduced risk for heart disease, obesity, stroke, and cancer, could consuming more increase the health gains?

To test this, researchers at the Imperial College London analyzed data from 95 studies that assessed the effects of fruit and veggie consumption on health outcomes. This dataset comprised of over 2 million participants. From this, the researchers calculated how dietary patterns affected the participant’s risks for heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature death.

They found that by incorporating just 200 grams (about 2.5 cups) of fruits and vegetables per day provided measurable reduction in health risks. In particular, as compared to people who ate no fruits or vegetables, those who consumed around 200 grams per day were 15 percent less likely to die prematurely.

To get the most health benefit, however, the team reported that people needed to eat 10 servings of fruits and veggies a day. People who ate around 800 grams of fruits and veggies had the most significant decrease in risks for heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. The risk for premature death in these people dropped by a whopping 31 percent.

The collective effect of consuming more fruits and vegetables would be a global phenomenon – the team argues that 7.8 million premature deaths can be prevented globally if we all doubled our intake of these foods.

Why all the benefits with fruits and veggies? "This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold," said Dr. Dagfinn Aune, the study’s lead author. "For instance, they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage, and lead to a reduction in cancer risk."

The team points out that leafy greens (spinach and kale), along with cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and cabbage) are particularly good for health boosts.

"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,” said Dr. Aune. “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."

Additional sources: BBC, MNT

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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