Major threats to life expectancy, such as heart disease, often occur as a result of lifestyle-damaging decisions.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the UK and worldwide, but it is largely preventable if measures are taken to prevent the risk.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet plays a key role in combating life-threatening complications such as heart disease, and the importance of eating fruits and vegetables in particular cannot be overstated.
The famous campaign & # 39; 5 A Day & # 39; It is based on advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), which recommends eating at least 400 grams (g) of fruits and vegetables per day to decrease the risk of developing serious health complications.
Evidence published in the International Journal of Epidemiology suggests that this number is very conservative and actually doubling it to 10 servings, or 800g, of fruits and vegetables a day provides much greater benefits.
The results are the result of a large-scale meta-analysis of all available research in populations worldwide, including up to two million people, and evaluated up to 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 81,000 cases. cardiovascular disease, 112,000 cancer cases and 94,000 deaths.
The research team estimates that approximately 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide could potentially be prevented each year if people ate 10 servings, or 800 g, of fruits and vegetables a day.
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The team also looked at which types of fruits and vegetables offered the greatest protection against disease.
Commenting on his approach, Dr. Dagfinn Aune, lead author of the research at the Imperial College London School of Public Health, said: "We wanted to investigate the amount of fruits and vegetables you need to eat for maximum protection against disease and premature death. Our results suggest that while five servings of fruits and vegetables are good, ten servings a day is even better. "
The results revealed that even a daily intake of 200g was associated with a 16% reduced risk of heart disease, 18% risk of stroke and 13% risk of cardiovascular disease.
The greatest benefits were seen at higher doses, with 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day associated with a 24% reduced risk of heart disease, a 33% risk of stroke, a 28% risk of cardiovascular disease and a 13% reduction. total cancer risk and a 31% reduction in premature death.
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In addition to the amount, the research team also shed light on the fruits and vegetables that provide the greatest protection against chronic disease.
The following fruits and vegetables can help prevent heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and early death: apples and pears, citrus fruits, salads, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, and chicory, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and cauliflower .
The researchers also found that the following may reduce the risk of cancer: green vegetables such as spinach or green beans, yellow vegetables such as peppers and carrots, and cruciferous vegetables.
However, the team acknowledged that the number of studies conducted on these specific fruits and vegetables was limited and that other specific fruits and vegetables that may also reduce the risk cannot be excluded.
Dr. Aune attributed several potential explanations for the protective benefits of fruits and vegetables: "Fruits and vegetables have been shown to lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure and improve the health of our blood vessels and immune system.
“This could be due to the complex nutrient network they contain. For example, they contain many antioxidants, which can reduce DNA damage and lead to a reduced risk of cancer. "
In addition, compounds called glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, activate enzymes that can help prevent cancer, Dr. Aune added.
He went on to explain that it is the interaction and cumulative benefit of eating a wide variety of compounds rather than focusing on specific compounds that provide the optimal benefit.
That's why eating whole plant foods is a much more effective strategy than focusing on specific vitamin supplements to build a defense against life-threatening diseases, he added.
In addition to following a healthy and balanced diet, exercising regularly is a proven and proven way to avoid health threats.
As the NHS explains, "Regular exercise will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient, lower your cholesterol level and also keep your blood pressure at a healthy level."
The health agency recommends doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week to keep the risks at bay.