FoodFacts.com has always supported the consumption of fresh whole foods as one of the building blocks involved in enjoying a long and healthy life. While there are certainly other variables involved in our health and well being, diet is something we all have a choice in and control over. When our dietary choices involve fresh, whole foods and are rich in fruits and vegetables, our bodies reap the benefits. We’ve always taken the “Eat your 5 a day” advice seriously.
Today we found new information confirming that following that advice is important for another great reason – it may actually prolong your life!
A large Swedish study has found a link between fruit and vegetable consumption and lifespan. People who ate fewer than the recommended “5 a Day” portions of fruit and vegetables tended not to live as long as people who ate 5 portions a day or more, say the researchers. The study comes out of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and is written up in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
It appears that there haven’t been many large studies that have looked at the association between fruit and vegetable consumption and lifespan. The studies that have been conducted have produced inconsistent results.
For this new study, researchers looked at the relationship between different amounts of daily fruit and vegetable consumption and timing and rate of deaths in a large population of 71,706 Swedish men and women who completed questionnaires about their food intake as participants in the Swedish Mammography Cohort and the Cohort of Swedish Men.
The participants were followed for 13 years and ranged in age from 45 to 83. About half the participants were men. During the follow-up period, just under 11,500 of the participants died.
When the researchers analyzed the results, it was found that eating fewer than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day was progressively linked to shorter lifespan and higher rates of death in both the men and women when compared with those who ate 5 a day or more. Thus, the less fruits and vegetables they ate under the 5 a day threshold, the shorter their lives.
Participants who said they never ate fruit and vegetables had their lives cut short by an average of 3 years, and were 53% more likely to die during the follow-up, compared with those who said they ate 5 servings a day or more.
The study was not designed to look for cause and effect, so it cannot say for sure that eating fruits and vegetables actually increases lifespan. The cause could be due to other factors that differed between those who ate fruits and vegetables and those who did not.
Researchers noted that participants who said they ate fewer fruits and vegetables tended to be smokers, with fewer years of education, and bigger eaters of red meat, high-fat dairy goods, snacks and sweets. But those who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables tended to consume more calories. When researchers adjusted the results to factor in possible effects of gender, BMI, exercise, alcohol and smoking, the results did not change significantly.
Even consumption of just one portion of fruit a day made a difference in lifespan. Those who never ate fruit lived an average of 19 months less than those who ate one portion per day. And those who said they ate three servings of vegetables per day lived 32 months longer than those who said they never ate vegetables.
While FoodFacts.com understands that more research is certainly suggested, we find this to be very compelling information. It certainly gives us all a great reason to make sure that we find every way we can to consume our 5 a day. A little nutritional awareness can go a long way!