A healthy diet and the right balance of fruits and vegetables are key to a long life, according to a new study.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that those who ate more fruits and veg were significantly more likely to live longer than those who didn’t eat much of any food, and that those in the top 1% of fruit and vegetable intake were less likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome than those in lower-income groups.
The study, published online in the journal PLOS ONE, found that the more fruits people ate, the longer they lived.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Sarah H. Seltzer, said the findings could help doctors and consumers understand the health benefits of eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
“What this study does is really help us understand the link between fruits and healthy diet choices, which we are beginning to understand,” said Seltizer, a professor of nutrition at Johns and a researcher in the department of nutrition, exercise and human performance.
The research found that people who ate a diet of fruits, veggies and whole grain foods were 20% less likely than those whose diets consisted of just meat and eggs to experience metabolic syndrome.
Sometime between ages 55 and 79, metabolic syndrome cases are more common in women and are associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
The authors noted that fruits and veggies may also lower risk of diabetes, but it was unclear if fruits and vegetable consumption was linked to that risk.
“This is an interesting finding because we’re starting to understand a relationship between fruit and overall health, and it’s interesting to note that we see that fruit and veggies are associated, not only with better health, but also with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease,” Seltazer said.
She added that the findings may help people think about fruit and veggie consumption and what fruits, and the vegetables they eat, may be good for their health.
“It may be helpful to eat a wider variety of foods, to eat lots of vegetables and fruit, and not just meats and eggs,” she said.
The researchers also looked at the association between fruits, meat and dairy and cardiovascular disease risk.
The findings of the study showed that eating more dairy products was linked with a lower risk for heart disease, while eating fewer fruits was linked more with a higher risk.
However, Seltacker cautioned that more research is needed before people can make informed dietary choices.
“For instance, we don’t know how much fruit and other plant-based foods are important,” she added.
“And also, we do know that if we don, we can increase the risk of metabolic syndrome.”
Hear more on the new study in the video above.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched the National Fruit and Vegetable Database (NFVD), which has been collecting fruit and plant-related data since 2010.
The project aims to identify new sources of fruit, vegetables, and whole-grain intake and to identify which foods and beverages may increase risk of disease and metabolic syndrome, according a news release from NIH.
The NFVD will also track fruit and the health of the U.S. population over time.