Fruits, Vegetables May Prolong Lives

Risk of death decreased with fruit and vegetable consumption

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Fruits and vegetables may not only benefit waistlines. New research suggests plant-rich diets may also increase life spans.

Researchers recently reviewed previous studies that examined the link between death and consumption of fruits and vegetables. They found that each serving of vegetables or fruits was associated with a decrease in the risk of death.

The link was especially pronounced among deaths from heart disease.

Additionally, the researchers found that eating more than five daily servings of fruits and vegetables had little further effect on risk of death.

"Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day."

The study was conducted by Frank Hu, a professor in the Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues.

Fruit and vegetable consumption is commonly recommended for a healthy diet. This study examined the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and death rates.

The researchers evaluated studies that reported the risks for death from all causes, heart disease, and cancer in relation to fruit and vegetable consumption.

They found 16 eligible studies that included 833,234 participants. Four of the studies included only men, and the other 12 included both men and women.

The studies followed up for periods ranging from 4.6 to 26 years.

The researchers found that, throughout the course of the studies, 56,423 participants died. Of those deaths, 11,512 were due to heart disease and 16,817 were from cancer.

The researchers also found that the risk of death decreased by 5 percent for each daily serving of fruits or vegetables. Additionally, the risk of death from heart disease decreased by 4 percent per serving.

Compared to people who had no daily consumption of fruits or vegetables, individuals who ate five servings per day had a 26 percent lower risk of death, the study authors reported.

The researchers noted that the risk reduction leveled off after five servings per day.

They found that daily consumption of fruits and vegetables was not tied to a reduced risk of death from cancer specifically.

The authors of the review acknowledged that the study had some limitations. For example, the included studies did not use consistent food surveys, which could have affected the results.

The authors concluded that higher consumption of fruits and vegetables was tied to a lower risk of death from all causes and from heart disease.

The review was published July 29 in BMJ.

The National Natural Science Foundation of China funded this study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 25, 2014
Last Updated:
March 25, 2015