AsianScientist (Apr. 13, 2016) – People who eat fresh fruit on most days are at lower risk of heart attack and stroke than people who rarely eat fresh fruit, according to new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The findings come from a seven-year study of half a million adults in China, where fresh fruit consumption is much lower than in countries like the UK or US.
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the University of Oxford in the UK conducted a large, nationwide study of 500,000 adults from ten urban and rural localities across China, tracking health for seven years through death records and electronic hospital records of illness. The study population consisted of people who did not have a history of cardiovascular diseases or anti-hypertensive treatments when they first joined the study.
Fruit is a rich source of potassium, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and various other potentially active compounds, and contains little sodium or fat and relatively few calories.
The study found that fruit consumption, which was mainly apples or oranges, was strongly associated with many other factors, such as education, lower blood pressure, lower blood glucose, and not smoking. But after allowing for what was known of these and other factors, a 100-gram portion of fruit per day was found to be associated with about one-third less cardiovascular mortality. This association was similar across different study areas, and in both men and women.
“The association between fruit consumption and cardiovascular risk seems to be stronger in China, where many still eat little fruit, than in high-income countries where daily consumption of fruit is more common,” said study author Dr. Du Huaidong from the University of Oxford.
Also, fruit in China is almost exclusively consumed raw, whereas much of the fruit in high-income countries is processed, and many previous studies combined fresh and processed fruit.
“A recent Global Burden of Disease report put low fruit consumption as one of the leading causes of premature death in China. However, this was based on little evidence from China itself,” said co-author Professor Li Liming from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.
“It’s difficult to know whether the lower risk in people who eat more fresh fruit is because of a real protective effect,” said senior author Professor Chen Zhengming.
“If it is, then widespread consumption of fresh fruit in China could prevent about half a million cardiovascular deaths a year, including 200,000 before age 70, and even larger numbers of non-fatal strokes and heart attacks.”
The article can be found at: Du et al. (2016) Fresh Fruit Consumption and Major Cardiovascular Disease in China.
Source: University of Oxford; Photo: Shutterstock.
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