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What is the optimal amount of fruit and vegetables for long-term health?

Background

Guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake vary from country to country, possibly because of conflicting evidence on the optimal amounts for long-term health. Some studies report that health benefits peak at 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day, but other studies found a slightly lower risk of mortality at 10 servings per day. What is the association between fruit and vegetable intake and mortality, and what types of fruits and vegetables confer the most benefit?

The study

This study included a dietary analysis of 66,719 women from the Nurses Health Study and 42,016 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, as well as a meta-analysis of 26 cohort studies. The goal was to ascertain the association between the number of daily servings of fruits and vegetables and mortality risk. The meta-analysis also looked at subgroups of fruits and vegetables (nonstarchy and starchy vegetables, crucifers, citrus fruits, and vitamin-C-rich and beta-carotene-rich vegetables) as well as fruit juice and potato intake and their associations with mortality.

The results

There was an inverse association between fruit and vegetable intake and total mortality, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory disease. The data showed that 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day (or 2 servings of fruits and 3 of vegetables) was associated with the lowest mortality. Intakes higher than 5 servings a day did not show additional benefits.

The meta-analysis confirmed the association between 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and a lower risk of mortality. The subgroup analysis showed that greater intakes of most fruits and vegetables were associated with lower mortality but not fruit juice and starchy vegetables such as peas, corn, and potatoes.

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