Eight Fruits, Vegetables Daily Lower Heart Disease Risk
Could the mantra “Five a day” when it comes to eating fruits and vegetables become a thing of the past? A new European study reports that people who ate at least eight portions of fruits and vegetables daily had a lower risk of dying from ischemic heart disease than those who ate fewer portions.
Eating eight fruits and vegetables is a challenge
This latest announcement about fruit and vegetable intake comes from an analysis of 313,074 people who participated in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Heart study. The study started in 1992 and followed individuals for an average of about 8.5 years. A total of 1,636 deaths from ischemic heart disease (IHD), the most common form of heart disease, occurred in this group.
According to Dr. Francesca Crowe of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, she and her colleagues evaluated the data and found “a 4% reduced risk of dying from IHD for each additional portion of fruit and vegetables consumed above the lowest intake of two portions.” That is, people who ate at least eight portions of fruits and vegetables daily had a 22 percent lower risk of dying from IHD than individuals who ate two or fewer portions.
Ischemic heart disease is a general term for heart problems caused by narrowed heart arteries. When these arteries become compromised, they deliver less oxygen and blood to the heart muscle, resulting in coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease, both of which can lead to heart attack.
Although ischemia often causes chest discomfort or pain known as angina pectoris, as many as 3 to 4 million Americans may have painless ischemia (silent ischemia), and thus no warning of an impending heart attack. People with a history of heart attack or who have diabetes are especially at risk for developing silent ischemia.
In the United States, the Healthy People 2010 objectives for fruits and vegetables included targets of increasing to 75 percent the proportion of people older than 2 years who would consume two or more servings of fruit and to 50 percent those who would eat three or more vegetable portions.
Yet according to a recent (September 2010) report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only an estimated 32.5 percent of adults ate fruit two or more times daily and 26.3 percent consumed vegetables three or more times daily in 2009.
Clearly eating eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily is a challenge in the United States. Researchers with the new European study reported that while Europeans averaged five portions of fruit and vegetables daily, people in Greece, Italy, and Spain consumed more and individuals in Sweden ate less.
Although results of this study indicate that eating eight or more portions of fruit and vegetables daily can help prevent dying of ischemic heart disease, Dr. Crowe cautioned that “we are unsure whether the association between fruit and vegetable intake and risk of IHD is due to some other component of diet or lifestyle.”
American Heart Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Crowe F et al. European Heart Journal doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehq465