The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, known as EPIC, is a huge ongoing study involving ten countries. Very recently they published in the American Journal of Epidemiology an analysis of vegetable and fruit consumption as it relates to mortality. We're probably all aware of the benefits of eating vegetables and fruits, but this research is interesting since it highlights the role these foods seem to have in reducing long-term risk of death.
The study was large and long term, including more than 450,000 participants from 10 European countries, who were recruited to the study between the years 1992 and 2000. Researchers followed the participants until the year 2010. Various analysis of the results showed that the more vegetables and fruits consumed by a person, the lower that person's risk of all-cause mortality. This association, or reduced risk, was even more significant for the risk of death from cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke).
The results suggest that a combined total fruit and vegetable consumption of more than 569 grams a day lowers the risk of death by 10% when compared to a consumption of less than 249 grams per day. In addition, for every 200-gram increase in total daily fruit and vegetable consumption, the risk falls by 6%.
When looking at the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, a diet high in vegetables and fruits reduces the risk by 15%. In addition, over 4% of deaths due to cardiovascular disease could be prevented by consuming more than 400 grams total of these foods daily.
Looking at the consumption of just fruit as a separate entity, no significant risk reduction was observed, whereas vegetable consumption alone was associated with a lower risk of mortality, which was even more significant for raw vegetables, with high consumption reducing the risk of death by 16%.
An interesting finding of the study was that the reduction in risk of death from all causes due to vegetable and fruit consumption was greater in the study individuals who consumed alcohol (around 30-40% risk reduction). The authors of the study say that this effect is most likely due to the fact that vegetables and fruits are rich in antioxidants, which can reduce the damaging oxidative stress linked to alcohol consumption.
The study was epidemiological, an association study, so does not prove that eating abundant amounts of fruit and vegetables increases life expectancy or prevents death from cardiovascular disease — BUT the study does certainly add to the mounting evidence which extols the benefits of these fabulous foods!