Studies representing nearly two million adults worldwide show that eating about five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, where two are fruits and three are veggies, is probably the best amount for a longer life, according to research published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation.
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables help decrease risk for numerous chronic health conditions which are leading causes of death, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, only about one in ten adults consume five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“While groups like the American Heart Association recommend four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily, consumers likely get inconsistent messages about what defines optimal daily intake of fruits and vegetables such as the recommended amount, and which foods to include and avoid,” said lead study author Dong D. Wang, M.D., Sc.D., an epidemiologist, nutritionist and a member of the medical faculty at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Wang and colleagues analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study and The Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, two studies including more than 100,000 adults who were followed for up to 30 decades. Both datasets included detailed dietary information repeatedly gathered every two to four years. For this investigation, researchers also pooled information on fruit and vegetable intake and death by 26 studies that included about 1.9 million individuals in 29 states and territories in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.
Analysis of all studies, with a composite of over 2 million participants, demonstrated:
- Intake of about five servings of fruits and vegetables every day was associated with the lowest risk of passing. Eating more than five servings wasn’t correlated with additional advantage.
- Eating about two servings per day of fruits and three servings daily of vegetables was associated with the greatest longevity.
- In contrast to people who consumed two servings of vegetables and fruit per day, participants who consumed five servings a day of vegetable and fruits had a 13% lower chance of death from all causes; a 12 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke; a 10% lower chance of death from cancer; and a 35% lower risk of death from cardiovascular illness, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Not many meals that one might consider to be fruits and vegetables offered exactly the very same advantages. For example: Starchy vegetables, like peas and corn, fruit juices and berries were not correlated with decreased risk of death from all causes or particular chronic ailments.
- “Our analysis in the two cohorts of U.S. men and women yielded results similar to those from 26 cohorts around the world, which supports the biological plausibility of our findings and suggests these findings can be applied to broader populations,” Wang said.On the other hand, green leafy vegetables, including spinach, lettuce and lettuce, and fruit and vegetables rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, berries and carrots, demonstrated benefits.
“Our analysis in the two cohorts of U.S. men and women yielded results similar to those from 26 cohorts around the world, which supports the biological plausibility of our findings and suggests these findings can be applied to broader populations,” Wang said.
Wang said this research identifies an optimal intake level of five servings of fruits and vegetables and supports the evidence-based, succinct public health message of ‘5-a-day,’ meaning people should ideally consume five servings of fruit and vegetable each day. “This amount probably offers the most benefit in terms of prevention of significant chronic disease and can be a relatively achievable intake for people,” he explained. “We also found that not all fruits and vegetables offer the same degree of benefit, even though current dietary recommendations generally treat all types of fruits and vegetables, including starchy vegetables, fruit juices and potatoes, the same.”
A limitation of this research is that it is observational, showing an association between fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of death; it does not confer a direct cause-and-effect relationship.
“The American Heart Association recommends filling at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal,” said Anne Thorndike, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “This research provides strong evidence for the lifelong benefits of eating fruits and vegetables and suggests a goal amount to consume daily for ideal health. Fruits and vegetables are naturally packaged sources of nutrients that can be included in most meals and snacks, and they are essential for keeping our hearts and bodies healthy.”