Fresh Fruits And Vegetables, Not Canned, Linked To Lower Mortality
April 1, 2014

Eat Up! Fresh Vegetables And Fruits Can Help You Live Longer

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but what about seven? Or eight?

According to a new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, eating seven or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day reduces a person’s rate of death at any time by 42 percent.

The study team, from the University College London, discovered that eating fresh vegetables was linked with the most powerful protective impact, with an everyday portion lowering overall likelihood of death by 16 percent. Salad added to a 13 percent risk reduction per portion and each portion of fresh fruit was connected with a smaller, but still substantial, 4 percent drop.

"We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering," said Oyinlola Oyebode, an epidemiologist at UCL. "The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age. Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference. If you're happy to snack on carrots or other vegetables, then that is a great choice but if you fancy something sweeter, a banana or any fruit will also do you good."

To reach their conclusion, the UK scientists used data from the Health Survey for England to examine the diets of over 65,000 people between 2001 and 2013. They discovered that the more fruit and vegetables they ate, the less likely they were to die at any age. Consuming seven or more portions was found to reduce the specific risks of death by cancer, 25 percent, and heart disease, 31 percent. The study also showed that vegetables have considerably greater health benefits than fruit.

When compared to consuming less than one portion of fruit or vegetables, the risk of death by any cause is cut by 14 percent when a person consumes one to three portions daily, 29 percent for three to five portions, 36 percent for five to seven portions and 42 percent for seven or more.

The team said their study is the first to connect fruit and vegetable intake with all-cause, cancer and heart disease deaths in a nationally-representative population, the first to measure health benefits per-portion, and the first to look at the kinds of fruit and vegetable with the most benefit. The researchers said they had considered a wide range of confounding factors, such as cigarette smoking and body mass index, in reaching their conclusion.

While the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetable were clearly evident, regular consumption of frozen or canned fruit seemed to increase the risk of death by 17 percent, a find that which public health doctors from the University of Liverpool called "intriguing” in an accompanying editorial. They said the added sugars of these processed foods could be to blame and suggested that dietary guideline should be revised to reflect this find.

"150 ml of freshly squeezed orange juice (sugar 13 g); 30 g of dried figs (sugar 14 g); 200 ml of a smoothie made with fruit and fruit juice (sugar 23 g) and 80 g of tinned fruit salad in fruit juice (sugar 10 g)...contain a total of some 60 g of refined sugar," they wrote. "This is more than the sugar in a 500 ml bottle of cola."

"Most canned fruit contains high sugar levels and cheaper varieties are packed in syrup rather than fruit juice," Oyebode said. "The negative health impacts of the sugar may well outweigh any benefits. Another possibility is that there are confounding factors that we could not control for, such as poor access to fresh groceries among people who have pre-existing health conditions, hectic lifestyles or who live in deprived areas."