Eating seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day can reduce your risk of premature death from any cause by as much as 42 percent, British researchers suggest. A survey of more than 65,000 people ages 35 and older who were representative of the English population (not just health-conscious groups) found that fruit and vegetable consumption, measured over a seven-year period, was associated with significant reductions in death, especially from cancer (a 25 percent lower risk in people who ate at least seven portions a day) and cardiovascular disease (a 31 percent lower risk).
As portions increased, risk of death decreased. The strongest protective effects came from fresh vegetables, which included salad. Fresh and dried fruit appeared to contribute to a longer life, but fruit in the canned and frozen category didn't. The researchers say that typically high levels of sugar in canned fruit may be the driving factor behind the poor showing in the canned and frozen category, because frozen fruit is generally considered nutritionally similar to fresh fruit.
Although the study couldn't directly prove that fruits and vegetables reduce mortality, the indirect association between the two was significant, according to the researchers.
And while seven or more servings a day may sound daunting to some people, it's okay to start small and gradually increase consumption to reap more of produce's positive effects: One or two servings a day yielded a 14 percent decreased death risk, while three to five servings were associated with a 29 percent decrease.
Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, published online 3/31/14; Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50 and Updated by Remedy Health Media