Eating fresh fruit every day can benefit heart health.
Dr. Huaidong Du, of the University of Oxford in the UK, and colleagues recently published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Under the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is recommended that adults who get less than 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily consume 1.5-2 cups of fruits each day, based on evidence that including fruits as part of a healthy diet reduces the risk of some chronic diseases.
However, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year found that only 13.1% of adults in the US are consuming enough fruits.
The researchers note that previous studies have already identified a link between high fruit intake and lower risk of cardiovascular disease in Western populations.
Medical News Today reported on a study last year, for example, that found - in a US population - eating more fruits and vegetables in young adulthood may protect heart health in later life.
However, Dr. Du and colleagues say little is known about whether high fruit intake benefits heart health in China, where fruit consumption is lower than many other countries, including the UK and US.
100 g of fresh fruits daily reduced cardiovascular death by a third
To find out, the team enrolled 512,891 adults aged 30-79 from 10 urban and rural regions across China, who had no previous history of cardiovascular disease or use of anti-hypertensive medication.
Participants were required to report their daily fruit consumption, including what fruits they ate and how much. Their health was tracked for an average of 7 years using electronic hospital records and death records.
Compared with participants who never or rarely consumed fresh fruits, those who ate fresh fruits daily had lower blood pressure and glucose levels, as well as lower risks for heart attack and stroke.
After accounting for lower blood pressure, lower glucose levels and other factors, including education and not smoking, the team found that participants who consumed around 100 g of fresh fruits daily were also a third less likely to die from cardiovascular causes, compared with those who never or rarely ate fresh fruits.
Fruit intake among subjects primarily consisted of apples and oranges, and the findings were consistent across men and women.
Commenting on the results, senior study author Prof. Zhengming Chen, also of the University of Oxford, says:
"It's difficult to know whether the lower risk in people who eat more fresh fruit is because of a real protective effect. If it is, then widespread consumption of fresh fruit in China could prevent about half a million cardiovascular deaths a year, including 200,000 before age 70, and even larger numbers of non-fatal strokes and heart attacks."
Dr. Du notes that the link between high fruit intake and cardiovascular risk appears to be stronger in China, likely because daily fruit consumption is less common than in high-income countries.
Additionally, the team points out that a lot of fruits consumed in high-income countries consist of processed varieties, whereas most of the fruits consumed in China are eaten fresh; previous studies have investigated the cardiovascular effects of fresh and processed fruits combined.
Last month, MNT reported on a study that suggested a 10% price reduction on fruits and vegetables could prevent more than half a million deaths from cardiovascular disease in the US by 2035.