Millions of heart disease deaths each year have been linked to not getting enough servings of fruits and vegetables, a new study has found.
Researchers from Tufts University reviewed 2010 diet surveys and data from countries worldwide and compared dietary information to the top causes of death in each country.
The data was part of the Global Dietary Database project.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and in this new study, the researchers found that not eating enough fruits or vegetables could be attributed to millions of heart disease deaths and strokes.
“Fruits and vegetables are a modifiable component of diet that can impact preventable deaths globally,” said Victoria Miller, the lead author of the study. “Our findings indicate the need for population-based efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the world.”
Fruits and vegetables are a crucial part of a balanced diet and are a good source of fiber, antioxidants, and potassium.
From aiding digestion to lowering the risk of obesity, protecting cells from damage to boosting the body’s immune system, there are many benefits to adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet.
The researchers found that not eating enough fruit results in one in seven cardiovascular deaths each year and one in twelve cardiovascular deaths are due to not eating enough vegetables.
Each year the researchers estimate that 1.3 million deaths from stroke and 520,000 deaths from heart disease are caused by low fruit consumption, while not eating enough vegetables causes 200,000 deaths from stroke and 800,000 deaths from coronary heart disease.
There were more deaths attributable to low fruit and vegetable intake in countries in South Asia, East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, where fruit consumption is low.
Countries in Central Asia and Oceania had high rates of heart disease and ate fewer vegetables.
In the US, the researchers say that 82,000 annual deaths could be caused by not getting enough vegetables and 57,000 deaths could be due to low fruit intake.
The researchers recommend that people eat 300 grams of fruit per day and 400 grams of vegetables to help reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
“Global nutrition priorities have traditionally focused on providing sufficient calories, vitamin supplementation and reducing additives like salt and sugar,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, the senior author of the study. “These findings indicate a need to expand the focus to increasing availability and consumption of protective foods like fruits, vegetables, and legumes–a positive message with tremendous potential for improving global health.”
The findings were presented at the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting.
Main Image Credit: Shutterstock/Alexander Raths