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More Fruits and Vegetables Mean Lower Risk of Death



I’m sure you know that people with diabetes need to manage their diet very carefully. It’s not just to keep their blood sugars level, but also to help avoid one of the major complications of diabetes: cardiovascular disease. Those with diabetes also have an increased risk of death from all causes, and it appears that they also have a higher risk of certain types of cancers.

Fortunately there is a lot of research on diet and cardiovascular disease, but that’s in the general, non-diabetic population. A study recently published in The Journal of Nutrition (2008;138(4):775-781) assessed the eating habits of over 10,000 diabetics living in Europe. At the start of the study the participants filled out a detailed questionnaire about their eating habits, lifestyle, and other health-related conditions for the previous year.

Over the following nine years the scientists tallied the cause of death for all of the participants who died during the study. They then compared their diets to those who remained alive. The results of their analysis are quite similar to the results seen in studies of non-diabetic groups: the more fruits, vegetables and legumes a subject ate, the less likely they were to die of any cause at all. In fact, for every 80 extra grams (that’s about 3 ounces) of fruits, vegetables or legumes a person ate, their risk went down by 6%! This reduced risk held true regardless of the test subject’s smoking status, Body Mass Index, or other common variables.

When the researchers looked at only those deaths from cardiovascular disease there were similar results. There was not a significant relationship, however, between a person’s intake of fruits, vegetables or legumes and their risk of death from cancer.

What this means for you

The results of this study support other, similar studies done on those who are not diabetic. Eighty grams is about the size of half an apple. Even if you’re not diabetic, make fruits, vegetables and legumes (including beans and peanuts) part of your daily diet. They taste good, they’re low in calories, and a few extra a day not only won’t hurt, they might just save your life.

First posted: August 13, 2008