If you need another reason to put produce on your plate, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that eating more fruit may reduce your risk of major heart disease. UR Medicine nutrition expert Dr. Thomas Campbell discusses the study and what it means for our health.
While there’s plenty of evidence that supports the health benefits of a plant-based diet, there is a popular notion that, because of its sugar content, fruit should be enjoyed sparingly, if at all. This study, along with many others, suggests we should put those fears aside.
Among the adults studied, those who ate the most fruit not only had a 40 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death, they also had lower blood sugar and lower blood pressure.
I recommend that people freely consume fresh, whole fruits as snacks—but not fruit juices, smoothies, or other fruit drinks. Increased fruit intake has been shown in several studies to be associated with decreased risk of chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease, erectile dysfunction, some cancers, and even gallbladder problems requiring surgery.
This new study, which looked at a large Chinese population, supports previous findings and has uncovered a remarkably strong association. What makes it more convincing is that the more fruit a person ate, the more their risk of cardiovascular disease was reduced.
Of course, this is an observational study, which can’t prove causation. There is limited information on the actual amount or type of fruit most subjects consumed. Additionally, those subjects that consumed the most fruit were the highest socioeconomic status and had other healthy behaviors that may have factored into the improved disease risks, despite efforts to tease out these related variables using statistical methods.
When considered in the context of other research regarding the health effects of individual components of fruit, including fiber, phytochemicals, minerals and vitamins—all of which have benefits—the story that fruit is good for the heart and blood vessels becomes very compelling.
Thomas M. Campbell, MD, is a board-certified family physician and medical director of the UR Medicine Program for Nutrition in Medicine. With his father T. Colin Campbell, PhD, he co-authored "The China Study, The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and The Startling Implications for Diet, Weight-Loss, and Long-Term Health" and has published a follow-up book, “The Campbell Plan.”