By Miranda Larbi
Not getting enough fruit or vegetable is putting millions at risk of deadly heart attack and stroke, an alarming new study has warned.
Around one in seven cardiovascular deaths are down to lack of fruit, while one in 12 is caused by not eating enough vegetables.
The study says that low fruit intake accounted for nearly 1.8 million cardiovascular deaths in 2010, compared to a million vegetable-related deaths.
According to scientists from Tufts University, the damage caused by lack of fruit was almost double that of not getting enough vegetable.
“Fruits and vegetables are a modifiable component of diet that can impact preventable deaths globally,” said lead study author Victoria Miller from Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
“Our findings indicate the need for population-based efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the world.”
Diets are lacking in fibre
Fruit and veg are packed with fibre, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.
Eating a wide range of them has been proven to improve gut health and people who eat more fruit and vegetable are less likely to be overweight or obese – the main risk factor of cardiovascular disease.
According to a study from back in January, 90 per cent of us aren’t getting enough fibre and that’s worrying because it’s so crucial to our everyday health.
It is the stuff that ensures we do not go too long without having a poo. It wards off things like heart attacks and stroke. It can improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels – crucial in preventing or managing diabetes.
Oh, and it also protects many of us from developing bowel cancer.
Vitamin C protects against heart disease
As well as helping us eat enough roughage, fruit and vegetable contain nutrients like vitamin C.
According to nutritionists Dr Sarah Brewer and Juliette Kellow, citrus fruits are the key to stay young and living long.
They recommend eating at least one orange, grapefruit, lemon or lime a day.
Dr Brewer told The Sun: “Citrus fruits contain anti-oxidant polyphenols and vitamin C which protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.
“Vitamin C helps to lower cholesterol levels by promoting the conversion of cholesterol to bile acids. Anti-oxidants in general also lower cholesterol by protecting circulating LDL (bad cholesterol) particles from oxidation so they return to the liver for recycling rather than contributing to furring up of the arteries.”
The vitamin can help us beat wrinkles, heart disease and there’s some suggestion that it may play a role in the management of cancer.
The Tufts University study’s senior author Dariush Mozaffarian, said that the recent findings showed 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”.
Lack of fruit kills twice as many as lack of vegetable
Health officials recommend we eat 300g of fruit a day – the equivalent of two small apples.
We should be eating 400g of vegetable a day – the equivalent of three cups of raw carrot.
Researchers estimated that the average national intake of fruit and vegetable of 113 countries and then compared data with the causes of death in each country and data on the cardiovascular risk associated with poor fruit and veg consumption.
Young men most at risk
Based on data from 2010, they estimated that lack of fruit resulted in nearly 1.3 million deaths from stroke and 520,000 from coronary heart disease.
A lack of vegetable resulted in around 200,000 stroke deaths and more than 800,000 deaths from coronary heart disease.
Larbi, Digital Health & Fitness Reporter of The Sun