Monday, May 16, 2011

Eight Daily Servings of Fruits and Vegetables Slash Heart Disease Risk

Researchers publishing in the European Heart Journal have released the result of a study examining the diet of more than 300,000 men and women from eight European countries. They found that those individuals eating the most fruits and vegetable servings per day experienced the lowest level of ischemic heart disease (IHD), the most common form of the illness.

Ischemic heart disease is characterized by a reduced blood supply to the heart due to narrowed vessels from coronary plaque or chronic levels of inflammation that constrict blood flow. The end result is a greatly increased risk of heart attack as blood flow to the critical organ is shut off.

Eight Servings of Fruits and Vegetables Shown to Lower Chronic Disease Risks
Data from this research comes from the long-running European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study that began in 1992. An analysis shows that people eating at least eight servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day have a 22% lower risk of dying from IHD compared to those taking less than three daily servings. A serving is defined as approximately 80 grams or the equivalent of a small banana or medium apple.

Dietary analysis was determined by using a standard questionnaire, and factors including health, socio-economic status, and lifestyle, as well as smoking, drinking and exercise habits were taken into account. Dr. Francesca Crowe of the University of Oxford in England observed “This study involved over 300,000 people in eight different European countries, with 1,636 deaths from IHD. It shows a 4% reduced risk of dying from IHD for each additional portion of fruit and vegetables consumed.”

Natural Food Diet Lowers Heart Disease Risk by Nearly One-Quarter
In an effort to better understand the result of data collected over the eight and a half year course of this leg of the study, researchers made allowances for external factors such as differences in lifestyle and eating habits. The researchers did caution that people tend to report a higher intake of fruits and vegetables when completing questionnaires and that may skew the results slightly in either direction.

The final analysis of this leg of the EPIC study provides conclusive evidence that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables have a consistent and measurable impact on the risk of death from a heart attack. Professor Michael Marmot, director of the University College London in an accompanying editorial explains, “Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death. A reduction of 22% is huge. Reductions in cancers of several sites, in blood pressure and stroke, would add to this reduction in fatal CHD. Moving to a diet that emphasizes fruit and vegetables is of great importance to public health.”

The association between lowered heart attack risk and increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is well known among health-minded people. The ongoing results from the EPIC study continue to reinforce the importance of a diet high in natural foods to maintain health and lower the risk from ischemic heart disease.

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