Eating at least seven daily portions of fruit and vegetables may give the best chance of staving off death from any cause, says a new study.
And vegetables may pack more of a protective punch than fruit, according to research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
A diet rich in fruit and vegetables has been linked to good health but many of the studies on which this is based have largely been carried out on people who are already likely to be health conscious.
The authors analysed lifestyle data for more than 65,000 randomly selected adults aged at least 35, derived from annual national health surveys for England between 2001 and 2008. And they tracked recorded deaths from among the sample for an average of 7.5 years.
On average, the survey respondents said they had eaten just under four portions of fruit and vegetables the previous day.
During the monitoring period 4,399 people died (6.7% of the sample).
The analysis revealed that eating fruit and vegetables was associated with a lower risk of death overall, and deaths from heart disease/stroke and cancer.
The higher the intake of fruit and vegetables the greater the protective effects seemed to be.
Eating at least seven daily portions was linked to a 42% lower risk of death from all causes and from cancer and heart disease/stroke of 25% and 31%, respectively, after excluding deaths within the first year of the monitoring period.
Vegetables may be more protective, the figures suggest: 2-3 daily portions were linked to a 19% lower risk of death, compared with a 10% lower risk for the equivalent amount of fruit.
And each portion of salad or vegetables seemed to confer a 12%-15% lower risk of death.
But while fresh and dried fruit seemed to strongly curb the risk of death a portion of frozen/tinned fruit seemed to increase it by 17%, which public health doctors from the University of Liverpool describe in an accompanying editorial as “intriguing”.
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