Eat Fruit for a Long Life

From the publishers of the New England Journal of Medicine



Eat Fruit for a Long Life An apple a day doesn't just keep the doctor away—it may also help you live longer. For 17 years researchers followed nearly 11,000 "health-conscious" people living in the United Kingdom who ate fruit, whole-grain bread, and salads on a daily basis. The results, published in the September 28 British Medical Journal, showed that the death rate for these healthy eaters was half that of the UK's general population.

Basket of Fruit Only 19 percent of the study group smoked, which the authors say probably explains part of the lower mortality (overall, about 27 percent of UK inhabitants smoke, as do 25 percent of Americans). But even after adjusting for smoking, consumption of certain foods was linked to lower death rates.

Fresh fruit in particular seemed to offer the best bet for a long life: Frequent fruit eaters had a 32 percent lower risk of dying from cerebrovascular disease such as stroke, and a 24 percent lower risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, than those who ate fruit less than once a day. A daily raw salad also cut deaths from ischemic heart disease by 26 percent.

Close to half of the participants were vegetarians. But just avoiding meat may not be key to longevity, according to this study, because a vegetarian diet wasn't significantly linked to a lower death rate.

"The results suggest that it's the increased fruit and salad in those diets that make vegetarian diets a smart choice," says HealthNews associate editor George Blackburn, MD. Here in the US, vegetarian diets received a thumbs-up in the most recent federal dietary guidelines, he notes. "The new findings are but the latest evidence that plant-based diets are the way to go for preventing cardiovascular disease."



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