Doctors may soon be writing patients prescriptions for five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, if British researchers have their way.
In the first long-term study of its kind, researchers found people who increased their intake of fruits and vegetables by 1.4 servings a day over a six-month period reduced their blood pressure and increased blood levels of important antioxidant vitamins known to fight heart disease. Compared to those in a control group, participants had an average drop in systolic pressure (the top number in the blood pressure reading) by 4 mmHg and an average drop in diastolic pressure (the bottom number in the reading) by 1.5 mmHg.
Researchers say the drop in blood pressure, while small, will have a big impact on the population as a whole if everyone followed the five-a-day rule. “A reduction of 2 mmHg in diastolic blood pressure results in a decrease of about 17 percent in the incidence of high blood pressure, 6 percent in the risk of coronary heart disease, and 15 percent in the risk of stroke and transient ischaemic attack,” says lead author Andrew Neil, M.D., from the University of Oxford.
The study consisted of nearly 700 people who filled out questionnaires regarding their health that included information about diet. About half the group was provided with special education from a nurse on the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables and how to increase their intake of these foods.
SOURCE: The Lancet, Published Online May 28, 2002