Eat More Fruits and Veggies to Live Longer | VitaMedica
Eat More Fruits & Vegtables & Live Longer

Eat More Fruits and Veggies to Live Longer

Be honest.  How many servings of fruits and vegetables have you had today?  If you said three or four, you’re not alone.  In fact, you’re the average American or Brit. 


But if you want to live a longer life, you’ll have to do better than “an apple a day.”  In fact, you’ll have to eat an apple, a carrot, and at least five or six more portions of fruits and veggies!


A recent study by researchers at University College London (UCL), published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that people who eat 7 or more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily greatly reduced their risk of dying, especially from cancer or cardiovascular disease (CVD).


Researchers analyzed lifestyle data from the Health Survey for England between 2001-2008, which followed 65,226 participants over age 35.  The survey included questions about daily fruit and vegetable consumption, and participants were followed for a period of about 8 years.  


“The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age.”


Participants ate an average of 3.8 servings of fruit and vegetables each day, with a serving size equaling about 80 grams, or almost three ounces.  The participants who consumed the most fruits and vegetables tended to be older, college-educated, nonsmoking women.  Increased fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with increased physical activity, and body mass index (BMI) was lower amongst those who ate more fruits and vegetables.


Through the end of the study period, almost 4,400 participants died; one third died from cancer  and another third died from CVD.


Comparing the nutrition data to the mortality rate, researchers found that those who ate the most servings of fruits and vegetables daily had a reduced overall risk of premature death.


Individuals who ate seven or more portions of fruit or vegetables had a 42% reduced risk of dying from any cause compared to those who just ate one portion.  Those who ate between five and seven servings a day had a 36% reduced risk of death, and those who ate between three to five portions a day had a 29% reduced risk.  By comparison, those who ate just one to three helpings had just a 14% reduced risk of dying.


When evaluated by cause of death, those who ate the most vegetables had a 25% lower risk of dying from cancer and a 31% lower risk of dying from CVD.


Vegetables, rather than fruit, seemed to provide the most health benefits, as consuming more than three or four servings of fruit every day did not offer the same advantages. 


The form of fruit consumed also seemed to affect the results; fresh and dried fruit offered the most protection, while frozen or canned fruit actually increased the risk of death by 17%.  Researchers surmised that the sugars added during processing might offset the benefits of fresh fruit, or that a reliance on canned fruits may indicate a lack of access to other fresh produce.


Additionally, fruit consumed in the form of fruit juice did not provide any significant benefits.


Lead study author Dr. Oyinlola Oyebode of UCL’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health stated, “The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age.  My advice would be, however much you are eating now, eat more.”


The Bottom Line

Participants in this study consumed on average only about half the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables daily.  Data in the U.S. also indicates that Americans, especially teens and young adults, are not consuming the recommended portions of F&V on a daily basis.  This is despite the fact that in 2007, U.S. public health officials moved away from the “5-a-Day” campaign to a more general message of “Fruits & Veggies – More Matters.”


The study also comes on the heels of two other studies published just this past month.  In the first study, the American College of Cardiology found that women who ate a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables in their twenties were 40% less likely to have plaque buildup in their arteries 20 years later. 


In the second study of more than 1,000 Chinese women, those who ate the most cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower) had considerably less inflammation than those who ate the fewest. 


Coupled with the ever-growing body of research that points to the harms of eating meat, especially red meat, the message is clear – eat more fruits & vegetables!


Coupled with the ever-growing body of research that points to the harms of eating meat, especially red meat, the message is clear – eat more fruits & vegetables!


Not sure how you can incorporate more vegetables into your diet?  Find out everything you need to know about vegetarianism, including how to be a part-time vegetarian and which plant foods pack the biggest protein punch.


Last updated August 31, 2016


David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.