not eating enough fruits and vegetables

A new study estimates the percentage of cardiovascular disease-related deaths that can be attributed to not eating enough fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are two important components of any healthy, balanced diet.  They are rich in vital nutrients like fibre, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants.  These nutrients are good for cardiovascular health as they reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and they benefit digestive health by improving the health of the bacteria in the digestive tract.  They also tend to be relatively low in calories, and consuming them frequently makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight.

However, it can be difficult to get enough fruits and vegetables when processed and pre-packaged foods are cheaper, easily accessible, and heavily marketed.  Research suggests that not eating enough fruits and vegetables can be a risk factor for cardiovascular issues.  A recent United States study published in the American Society for Nutrition estimated how severe this risk is by examining the percentage of cardiovascular disease-related deaths that can be attributed to a lack of fruits and vegetables.

Researchers estimated that inadequate fruit consumption resulted in approximately 1.3 million deaths from stroke and 520,000 deaths from coronary heart disease globally each year.  Furthermore, inadequate vegetable consumption resulted in approximately 200,000 deaths from stroke and over 800,000 deaths from coronary heart disease globally each year.  These findings were based on data from 2010.

Additionally, different results were observed for different countries.  For example, for the United States, inadequate fruit intake resulted in 57,000 cardiovascular deaths while inadequate vegetable intake resulted in 82,000 deaths.  Countries with the lowest vegetable intake, particularly those in Central Asia and Oceania, had the highest relative rates of associated coronary heart disease.  Countries with the lowest fruit intake, such as those in South Asia, East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, had the highest risks of associated stroke deaths.

Although these statistics may seem alarming, these risks can be reduced by simply incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet.  According to dietary guidelines from other studies regarding cardiovascular disease risk factors, the ideal fruit intake is 300 grams per day and the ideal vegetable intake, including legumes such as beans and peas, is 400 grams per day.  This is equivalent to approximately two small apples and three cups of raw carrots.

This study suggests that eating enough fruits and vegetables can improve cardiovascular health, along with the many other known benefits.  More research is needed to acquire more recent data, however, for now, it is a good idea to consume a variety of delicious fruits and vegetables in your diet to benefit overall health.

Written by Avery Bisbee, BSc Candidate


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Reference: EurekAlert. (2019, June 8). Millions of cardiovascular deaths attributed to not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Retrieved June 10, 2019, from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-06/asfn-moc053019.php

 

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