Tucking into 800 grams of fruit and vegetables every day equivalent to 10 portions could reduce the risk of early death, reveals a meta-study of up to two million people worldwide.
While health guidelines currently recommend five servings of fruit and veg every day to prevent disease, an analysis of 95 international studies suggests that doubling this to 10 portions -- equivalent to 800 grams -- could be needed to see the greatest benefits and increase life expectancy.
The study, carried out by researchers at the UK's Imperial College London, estimates that 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide could potentially be prevented each year if people ate 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. The researchers studied up to two million people, assessing up to 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 81,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, 112,000 cancer cases and 94,000 deaths.
Fruit and vegetable intake of as little as 200 grams per day can already have positive health benefits, the researchers found, cutting the risk of heart disease by 16%, reducing the risk of stroke by 18% and the risk of heart disease by 13%.
Increasing daily intake to 800 grams boosts these figures to 24%, 33% and 28% respectively, according to the study, as well as reducing cancer risk by 13%.
A 31% reduction in premature death
Compared to people who don't eat any fruit or vegetables, the risk of early death can be reduced by as much as 31% by increasing intake to 800 grams a day. Fruit and vegetables were found to be beneficial irrespective of people's weight, physical activity levels, smoking and overall diet.
The researchers identified the following fruits and vegetables as potentially beneficial in preventing heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease and early death: apples and pears, citrus fruits, salad and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and chicory, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
They also found that green vegetables, such as spinach or green beans, yellow vegetables, such as peppers and carrots, and cruciferous vegetables could potentially reduce cancer risk.
These health benefits are understood to be linked to the many nutrients found in fruit and vegetables, such as antioxidants, which could potentially reduce DNA damage and reduce cancer risk, while also reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, boosting the health of blood vessels and the immune system, and benefitting naturally-occurring bacteria in the gut, explains lead author Dagfinn Aune.
The study is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.