A new preliminary study has estimated that around 1 in 7 cardiovascular deaths around the world could be linked to not eating enough fruit, and 1 in 12 cardiovascular deaths might be due to not eating enough vegetables.
Carried out by researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, the new study looked at 2010 data collected from 266 surveys which included 1,630,069 individuals from 113 of 187 countries, representing 82 percent of the world's population.
Using the survey responses, the researchers estimated the average national intakes of fruit and vegetables in each country, and combined this data with each country's data on the causes of death and cardiovascular risk associated with a low intake of fruit and vegetables.
Optimal fruit intake was defined as 300 grams per day, equivalent to around two small apples, and optimal intake of vegetables, which also included legumes, was defined as 400 grams per day, equivalent to about three cups of raw carrots.
The findings, which will be presented at Nutrition 2019, the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting held between June 8 and 11, suggested that low fruit intake may be linked with nearly 1.3 million deaths from stroke and more than 520,000 deaths from coronary heart disease around the world in 2010, while low vegetable intake was linked to 200,000 deaths from stroke and more than 800,000 deaths from coronary heart disease.
The countries where low fruit and veg intake appeared to have the biggest impact were in South Asia, East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, which had low fruit intake and also high rates of associated stroke deaths, and countries in Central Asia and Oceania which had low vegetable intake and also high rates of associated coronary heart disease.
In the United States, the team estimated that not eating enough vegetables could contribute to 82,000 cardiovascular deaths while low fruit intake may account for 57,000 deaths.
Low fruit and vegetable intake also appeared to have the biggest effect on cardiovascular disease deaths among younger adults and also among men, which the team say may be due to the fact that women tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.
"Fruits and vegetables are a modifiable component of diet that can impact preventable deaths globally," said lead study author Victoria Miller. "Our findings indicate the need for population-based efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the world."