Fruits, Veggies and Illness

Summer 2016, Living Well Magazine

Research shows evidence that fruit and vegetable consumption is linked to a longer life, and is directly linked to reduced cancer death and cardiovascular mortality. 

Regular consumption of fruit and vegetables is linked to a longer life, according to research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in 2014.

Regular intake of fruit and veggies has been associated with reduced cancer death and cardiovascular mortality, as well as reduction of deaths from other natural causes. Taking place over an eight-year period, this British study recorded the fruit and vegetable consumption of over sixty-five thousand participants over the age of thirty-five.

The Health Survey for England (HSE) is conducted annually, collecting health data from a random cross-section of the free-living English population. Participants gave permission for their data to be linked to the national statistics for death rates. After adjusting the data appropriately for age, sex, social class, education levels, Body Mass Index (BMI) alcohol consumption and physical exercise levels, compelling evidence of the link between decreased cancer death and fruit and vegetable consumption was shown.

Researchers tracked consumption of all fresh, canned and frozen fruit and vegetables, salads, pulses, dried fruits, juices and smoothies and also included recipes that were made from mainly fruits of vegetables. Portion sizes were recorded and defined by the UK Department of Health guidelines. There is no doubt that increasing our intake of fresh fruit and vegetables has a positive impact on overall health, and can lead not only to longer life, but to reduced cancer and cardiovascular death.

It must be noted that exclusion of deaths within a year of the baseline of the study showed that regular consumption of fruit and vegetables decreased not only cancer and cardiovascular mortality, there was also a significant decrease in all causes of mortality. This can only be positive news.

As far back as 1990, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended minimum intakes of fruit and vegetables, based on evidence of protective factors against cardiovascular disease and cancers. Here in Australia, our Government recommends at least seven serves a day (two fruit and five veggies) – the highest recommended amount internationally. This study suggests that we’ve got it right.

Vegetables and salad were shown to have the most positive impact on health – especially fresh, raw veggies, but even canned and frozen fruit and veggies were identified as contributing to a longer life. The evidence that increased consumption of both is associated with decreased cancer and cardiovascular mortality is compelling. The more fruit and veggies we eat, the greater the health benefits.

It is impossible to tell whether the benefits continue to increase as consumption increases, but there is strong evidence that eating more fruit and vegetables contribute to a longer, healthier life. What could be an easier way to benefit your health?

Reference:
Oyebode, O., Gordon-Dseagu, V., Walker, A., & Mindell, J. S. (2014). Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause, cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data. Journal of epidemiology and community health, jech-2013.