WEDNESDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Along with all the other well-known reasons to eat more fruits and vegetables, new research indicates that doing so may reduce your risk of dying from heart disease.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 300,000 people from eight European countries, aged 40 to 85, who took part in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study and were followed for an average of nearly 8.5 years.
The findings were published online Jan. 18 in the European Heart Journal.
The investigators found that there were 1,636 deaths from ischemic heart disease, which is the most common form of heart disease and a leading cause of death in Europe. People with ischemic heart disease have reduced blood flow to the heart, which can cause angina, chest pain and heart attack.
According to the study results, people who ate at least eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day were 22 percent less likely to die of ischemic heart disease than those who ate fewer than three portions a day. A portion was considered to be 80 grams, which would equal a small banana, a medium apple or a small carrot.
For each additional portion above the lowest intake of two portions, the risk of death from ischemic heart disease was reduced by 4 percent, the study authors noted.
"In other words, the risk of a fatal [ischemic heart disease event] for someone eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day would be 4 percent lower compared to someone consuming four portions a day, and so on up to eight portions or more," first author Francesca Crowe, of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, said in a journal news release.
"The main message from this analysis is that . . . people who consume more fruits and vegetables have lower risk of dying from ischemic heart disease. However, we need to be cautious in our interpretation of the results because we are unsure whether the association between fruit and vegetable intake and risk of ischemic heart disease is due to some other component of diet or lifestyle," Crowe noted.
"If we could understand, by means of well-designed intervention studies, the biological mechanisms that could underlie the association between fruits and vegetables and ischemic heart disease, this might help to determine whether or not the relation between fruit and vegetables with ischemic heart disease risk is causal," Crowe concluded.
The American Heart Association outlines how to keep your heart healthy.