Fruits, Vegetables and Heart Disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Observational studies show that eating fruits and vegetables can prevent heart disease, but the evidence is somewhat weak. That might be the bad news. The good news is, eating fruits and vegetables can help fight obesity and diabetes which lead to heart disease, providing indirect benefits, combined with other healthy habits.

A new assessment from Natures Review Cardiology, authored by Luc Dauchet, MD, PhD; Philippe Amouyel, MD, PhD; Jean Dallongeville, MD, PhD, suggests the need for large studies to define whether fruits and vegetables really can reduce risk of heart disease.

The study authors write, “Substitution of harmful foods with fruit and vegetables might reduce CVD [cardiovascular disease] events and provide a basis for public health recommendations. Confirmation that fruit and vegetables per se have a protective effect against CVD awaits further evidence from nutritional prevention trials and clinical interventions on cardiovascular risk factors. In particular, the quantities of fruit and vegetables necessary for optimal prevention and target population are yet to be defined.”

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Individuals who eat fruits and vegetables are likely to exercise more and engage in other healthy behaviors, leading researchers to conclude that diet alone might play a role in heart disease prevention. Filling up on fruits and vegetables can prevent consumption of other foods that contain saturated fats.

The notion that eating fruits and vegetables can reduce risk of heart disease comes from observational studies that might include confounding factors. Larger studies are needed to find the real and direct benefits of fruits and vegetable for heart disease prevention.

Even though we might not know for if fruits and vegetables can prevent heart disease, it is still important to try to eat at least five servings a day. Doing so could help cut calories, and help with weight loss and maintenance.

Large studies are needed to show if fruits and vegetables can really protect us from heart disease. It is entirely plausible, but needs to be proven. We should still seek the beneficial vitamins, hydration and fiber from eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables throughout the day, according to the study authors. Fruits and vegetables offer protection from obesity, may help keep blood pressure lower, and can be substituted for foods that harm and lead to heart disease.

Nat Rev Cardiol CME. 2009;6(9) © 2009 Nature Publishing Group

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