MINNEAPOLISDiets rich in fruits and vegetables are known to reduce the rate of heart disease, and new research supported by the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation (MHIF) shows this rings true for young adults as well as middle-aged consumers, especially women.
Researchers from MHIF, directed by lead author Michael Miedema, M.D., MPH, examined the extent to which young adults' diets are linked to cardiovascular health later in life. Specifically, they studied the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption in early adulthood and calcium buildup in the coronary arteries during middle-aged years. Results show a higher fruit and vegetable consumption keeps arteries clearer down the road.
Researchers analyzed data from 2,648 participants (60.8% women) in the Coronary Artery Disease Risk in Young Adults (CARDIA), and they found young women who ate an estimated eight servings of fruits/vegetables per day were 40% less likely to have calcified plaque in their arteries 20 years later, compared to young women who ate only three servings of fruits/vegetables per day. This correlation is strong even after accounting for other dietary factors (such as eating red meat, fish or sugar-sweetened beverages) and traditional risk factors (smoking and body mass index). The same benefit was not observed for young men.
"Healthy lifestyle behaviors are the foundation for the prevention of heart disease, and atherosclerotic plaque formation, the hallmark of cardiovascular disease, is a lifelong process," Miedema said. "Our results reinforce the value of establishing healthy behaviors early in adulthood and affirm that population-based approaches to reduce cardiovascular disease should include a focus on establishing a high intake of fruits and vegetables early in life."
Previous research also shows consumers who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables may live longer due to decreased risk of heart diseases, cancers and other health issues.