Five a day: Two fruits and three vegetables daily linked to greater life expectancy

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  • Eating fruit and vegetables daily is known to be good for our health
  • However, the optimum daily amount to maintain health was uncertain
  • A new study suggests that eating two fruits and five vegetables can extend your overall life expectancy

It is widely known that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is good for overall health, as it aids the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease. However, the optimum amount to maintain health was uncertain – until recently.

A recent study published in the journal Circulation analysed the data of two studies (Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study) in order to assess the relationship between mortality and the intake of fruit and vegetables. 

Comparing death risk and fruit and vegetable intake

“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,” explained lead study author Dong D. Wang.

In the two studies, Wang and his colleagues followed more than 100 000 participants for up to 30 years and tracked detailed information about their diet.

The team also collected data from 24 other cohort studies, focusing on the fruit and vegetable intake of 1.9 million participants (from 29 different countries).

Some fruits and vegetables more beneficial than others

Upon analysing the studies, the researchers found that an intake of five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, or two fruits and five vegetables, was associated with the lowest mortality risk. This means that, based on the study, eating two fruits and three vegetables a day is linked to an extended life expectancy.

However, the researchers also found that not all fruits and vegetables offer the same benefits: starchy vegetables and fruit juices were not associated with decreased mortality risk, whereas leafy greens, fruits and vegetables high in beta carotene and  vitamin C  (carrots and citrus) were associated with the benefits mentioned in the study. 

“Our analysis in the two cohorts of US 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 stated.

Anne Thorndike, chair of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston went on to say:

“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.”

Image credit: Pexels

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