A new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia shows that the consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with lower rates of obesity and other chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
The researchers also found that eating fruits and vegetables increased a person’s chance of living longer, with those who ate more fruit and veggies having a 40 per cent greater chance of surviving to age 80 than those who consumed less.
The study, published online Monday in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, was funded by the National Institutes of Health and was conducted by researchers from the School of Public Health, Faculty of Science and Engineering and the Institute for Health and Health Systems at the Université de Montréal.
“Fruit and vegetables are not just good for your health, they are also a great way to help reduce chronic disease,” said Dr. David McBride, the study’s senior author and a researcher at the Canadian Institute for Cancer Research.
“This research is the first to show fruit and vegetable consumption is associated positively with mortality in a large population, and that fruits and veggies are not only good for health, but are also associated positively in terms of reduced health care costs and better outcomes for the elderly and people with chronic conditions.”
The study examined data from a representative group of more than 2,000 adults in Canada.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups based on their consumption of fruits and vegetable.
Participants in the fruit group consumed an average of 3.6 servings of fruits a day, compared to 3.2 servings in the vegetable group.
The average amount of fruit eaten per day in the three groups was also significantly lower than in the control group.
Participants also reported eating less fruit and more vegetables than in both control and fruit groups.
Those who ate the most fruit and ate the least vegetables also reported the highest levels of well-being and reduced mortality.
Those participants in the low-fruits group also reported higher levels of physical activity and were also less likely to die early from chronic conditions.
The research team found that the high-fruit group had a significantly lower risk of dying prematurely from any cause and had a higher quality of life, and also had significantly higher levels in terms the number of physical activities and physical activity related factors, including physical activity, health and fitness, and social support.
It is unclear how much fruit and veg the participants in this group consumed, but the researchers speculated that the fruit and fruit-related factors could be responsible for the results.
The fruit and plant-based foods group also had lower rates than the low and plant foods groups of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The high-fruit group also ate more vegetables and less fruit, while the low fruit and low plant group ate more meat and fish.
In contrast, the plant-only group consumed fewer vegetables and more fruit, but only marginally.
“Our findings show that a healthy diet and an adequate amount of fruits, vegetables, and plant proteins, can help reduce the risks associated with chronic diseases and increase longevity,” McBride said.
“These findings can be used to inform food policy and public health recommendations to help support Canadians to make healthier choices for the health of their families and to maintain their overall well-rounded health.”
The results also showed that the plant food group was associated with greater levels of social support and decreased risks of mortality from chronic diseases.
“The fruit and nut group reported more positive outcomes, including greater physical activity levels and lower risk for diabetes and heart disease,” McBride said.