Eating more vegetables leads to a lower risk of death

Basket of vegetables

A new University of the City of London (UCL) study has found that vegetables have significantly higher health benefits than fruit.

Researchers found that the more vegetables and fruit the participants ate, the less likely they were to die at any age. Eating seven or more portions of vegetables and fruit a day reduced risk of death at any point in time, by 42% compared to eating less than one portion a day.

The study found that fresh vegetables had the strongest protective effect, with each daily portion reducing overall risk of death by 16%. Salad contributed to a 13% risk reduction per portion, and each portion of fresh fruit was associated with a smaller 4% reduction.

This is the first study to link vegetable and fruit consumption with all-cause, cancer and heart disease deaths in a nationally-representative population, the first to quantify health benefits per portion, and the first to identify the individual benefits of fruit and vegetables.

"We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering," said Dr Oyinlola Oyebode of UCL, lead author of the study. "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. However, people shouldn't feel daunted by a big target like seven. Whatever your starting point, it is always worth eating more fruit and vegetables. In our study even those eating one to three portions had a significantly lower risk than those eating less than one."

Between 2001 and 2013, the researchers studied the eating habits of 65,226 people representative of the English population. They worked out what effect fruit and vegetable intake had on the respondents’ risk of death. They found that people who ate at least seven portions a day had a 42% lower risk of death from all causes. This group also had a 31% lower risk of death caused by heart disease and stroke, and a 25% lower risk of death from cancer.

Photo: Foodfolio/Alamy

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