Getting people worldwide to eat more fruits and vegetables could significantly reduce disability and premature death from heart disease, researchers report.
For the study, investigators analyzed data and previous studies to determine how fruit and vegetable consumption affected the number of “heart disease-related disability-adjusted life years” (DALYs) — healthy years lost to disability or death — in 195 countries. Each DALY is one lost year of healthy life.
The findings showed that low intake of fruits accounted for just over 57 million DALYs, and low intake of vegetables accounted for more than 44 million DALYs.
The burden of heart disease attributed to limited fruit intake was lowest in Rwanda (5 percent) and highest in Bangladesh (23 percent). The burden of heart disease attributed to limited vegetable intake was lowest in North Korea (about 6 percent) and highest in Mongolia (over 19 percent), according to the report.
The richest countries had the lowest burden of heart disease associated with low intake of fruits and vegetables, the study authors said.
The findings suggest that efforts to boost people’s consumption of fruits and vegetables could lead to millions more years of healthy life worldwide, concluded researcher Patrick Sur, from the University of Washington in Seattle.
The study was scheduled for presentation Tuesday at a meeting of the American Heart Association in Portland, Ore. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The American Heart Association has more on healthy eating.