Could Eating 2 Fruit And 3 Vegetable Servings Daily The Key To A Longer life?


While it’s nothing new for dietary guidelines to suggest including a number of fruits and vegetables to your daily diet, a new observational study has findings that further support this. The study also found that consuming a daily dose of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables has also been associated with a lowered risk of death related to cancer, respiratory disease, and cardiovascular disease. Yet it’s notable that starchy vegetables and other fruit juices do not help in lessening the risk.

Nutritionists have spent a number of decades recommending a balanced diet to make sure that the body receives the proper amount of nutrients that it needs to remain healthy. And this balanced diet has core components that include fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and proteins.

Recently, a study was done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers in Boston, Massachusetts, who found evidence on the current dietary guidelines and expanded on them. They learned that eating around 2 fruit and 3 vegetable servings every single day ‘may lower the risk of both disease-related death and death from all causes.’

The study was published in a scientific journal of the American Heart Association (AHA), Circulation.


What Are the Current Dietary Guidelines?

Epidemiologist and nutritionist, as well as lead author of the study, Dr. Dong D. Wang, M.D., Sc.D. at the Harvard Medical School said, “While groups like the American Heart Association recommend 4-5 servings each of fruits and vegetables daily, consumers likely get inconsistent messages about […] the recommended amount and which foods to include and avoid.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture published their recommendations in the form of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

According to this particular set of guidelines, everyone should have at least one-half of their plate covered in fruits and vegetables, during every meal of the day.

Yet, these guidelines also claim that over 80% of people that live in the United States fail at meeting this particular food recommendation. They also suggest that they increase their intake of nutrient-dense foods as well.


Dietary Information of Participants

Two large cohort studies were used by researchers who took the self-reported dietary information from the participants. These were the Nurses’ Health Study )NHS) and the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study (FPFS).

For the NHS cohort study, it included registered female nurses between the ages of 30 and 55 years, while the HFPS cohort study was conducted with male participants with occupations in the health industry, between the ages of 40 and 75 years. Both studies had follow-ups with the participants every 2 to 4 years in order to compile dietary information over a period of around 30 years.

Notably, researchers excluded those participants that had baseline heart disease, diabetes, or cancer, which left them with information from 42,0106 males and 66,719 females. They also added data from another 26 studies – which had a total of 1.9 million participants – and through these studies, they examined the relationship between vegetable and fruit intake with death rates.

Due to the immense number of participants and the ongoing longitudinal assessments were able to bring the research team and extensive collection of data they needed for their analysis.

But what is also important to take note of is the criteria of both studies, which were corresponding education and occupation, that proposed that the participants were all of similar socioeconomic status, and they were likely to have had access to a healthy diet. However, what the study does not address is ‘the realities and effects of food insecurity.’


How Nutritional Values of Fruits and Vegetables Lower Risk of Death

The outcome of the study showed that a boost in the intake of vegetables and fruits was also associated with the lowered risk of death directly linked to heart disease, respiratory disease, or cancer.

In addition, the researchers also noted that they ‘saw the lowest risk of death at a threshold of a combined 5 servings, beyond which there was no apparent benefit on risk.’


What these results prove is how much nutritional value these types of foods have. For instance, bigger intake of vegetables and fruits also has an increased intake of potassium and other antioxidant activity. This is then linked respectively to improved lung function and lower blood pressure.

At the same time, it is important to note that the data is all self-reported, which means that there are discrepancies between the actual and reported intakes. Research participants that eat bigger meals may have had a tendency to overestimate just how many servings they actually had.

Again, the margin of error had the ability to also blur the actual basis of what comprised 5 servings, something that the study authors knew they must acknowledge. This could mean slightly higher servings (up to 10) could also be linked to lowered risk of disease and sickness.

The study outcome also encompassed more than the current guidelines of nutritional values by ‘differentiating among specific groups of fruit and vegetables.’

They study authors observed certain trends that involved leafy greens and foods that happened to be rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, which lessened the risk of death. Veggies and fruits that fall under these categories are those such as kale, carrots, spinach and citrus fruits.

On the other hand, the researchers observed that this does not include trendy fruit juices, or starchy vegetables like peas and potatoes. One reason for the starch is due to canned goods, which encounter a canning process that could possibly remove the antioxidant properties of those starchy vegetables.

When compared to whole fruits, when in juice form, this can actually cause a quick raise in one’s blood glucose and insulin levels, which can increase the risk of disease.

But unlike the existing dietary guidelines that include juices and canned foods as recommended servings for food and drink, the study shares that more extensive research on the effects of these items on one’s health is still required.


Still Supporting ‘5-a-Day’ Serving Recommendation

Despite the study being one of observation rather than being interventional, which means that ‘researchers directly implement variables and analyze the effects,’ the result was not able to conclude ‘that the trends present in this study indicate a causal relationship.’

Yet, there is still enough evidence to indicate that there are plenty of benefits of having a balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables. Plus the study’s findings are in sync with other similar observational studies that looked at the association between vegetables and fruits and their risks of disease.

What the findings of this particular study show is that individuals should follow the current dietary guidelines of having at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, as well as providing extra insight into the benefits of eating vegetables and fruits overall.