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Gimme five: Study finds eating a certain ratio of fruits, veggies may lead to longer life

Photo: udra/iStockphoto

Boston — We’re often told to eat more fruits and vegetables for good health. Now, researchers from Harvard University are taking that advice even further, saying that consuming two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables a day may help us live longer.

The researchers analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, comprising dietary data from more than 100,000 adults who were followed for as many as 30 years. Additionally, they used information from 26 studies that detailed the fruit and vegetable intake and mortality of approximately 1.9 million people from 29 countries and territories.

Findings show that, overall, participants who consumed about five daily servings of fruits and vegetables had the lowest risk of death. However, eating more than five servings a day didn’t show any additional benefit.

Consuming two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables a day was associated with the greatest longevity. In addition, participants who ate five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, when compared with those who ate just two, had a 13% lower risk of death from all causes, as well as lower risks of death from respiratory disease (35%), cardiovascular disease (12%) and cancer (10%).


Fruits and vegetables “help reduce risk for numerous chronic health conditions that are leading causes of death, including cardiovascular disease and cancer,” a March 1 press release from the American Heart Association states.

The researchers note that certain fruits and vegetables have greater health benefits, with optimal foods including green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and kale, as well as fruits and vegetables rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, berries and carrots.

“This research provides strong evidence for the lifelong benefits of eating fruits and vegetables and suggests a goal amount to consume daily for ideal health,” Anne Thorndike, chair of AHA’s Nutrition Committee and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in the release.

The study was published online March 1 in AHA’s journal Circulation.

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