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Apr 04, 2014 05:27 AM EDT

Eating Larger Quantities Of Fruits and Veggies Reduces Death Risk at Any Age, Study

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A latest University College London study found that having seven or more portions of vegetables and fruits cuts death risk by 42 percent.

For the study, the researchers surveyed the eating habits of 65,226 people from the Health Survey for England, conducted between 2001 and 2013.

The researchers discovered that eating fruit and vegetables in higher quantities positively affected people belonging to all age groups. Following a healthy diet reduced cancer and heart disease risk by 25 percent and 31 percent respectively.

Those who ate one to three portions of fruits and veggies had death risk lowered by 14 percent; 29 percent for three to five portions, 36 percent for five to seven portions and 42 percent for seven or more.

Researchers included factors like sex, age, cigarette smoking, social class, Body Mass Index, education, physical activity and alcohol intake in the study.

This is the first study to determine health benefits per-portion. The researchers also found that vegetables showed considerably more health benefits than fruits.

The researchers found that fresh vegetables had the strongest positive effect when compared to other veggies and fruits. One daily serving of fresh veggies decreased the overall death risk by 16 percent. It was 13 percent for salads and 4 percent for fresh fruits.

"We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering," Dr Oyinlola Oyebode of UCL's Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, lead author of the study, said in a press release. "The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age.

"Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference. If you're happy to snack on carrots or other vegetables, then that is a great choice but if you fancy something sweeter, a banana or any fruit will also do you good."

The finding aligns with the Australian government's 'Go for 2 + 5' guidelines, which suggest people to consume two portions of fruit and five of vegetables a day. While the UK Department of Health advocates '5 a day''Fruit and Veggies - More Matters' is the key message from the U.S.

Oyebode said the study showed that people abiding by the Australian guidelines will therefore gain huge benefits.

"However, people shouldn't feel daunted by a big target like seven. Whatever your starting point, it is always worth eating more fruit and vegetables. In our study even those eating one to three portions had a significantly lower risk than those eating less than one," Oyebode said.

The finding is published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Cause of Death

Portions of fruit and veggies per day decreased risk of death

0<1

1<3

3<5

5<7

7+

All Causes

0%

14 %

29%

36%

42%

Cancer

0%

11%

19%

25%

25%

Heart Disease

0%

9%

18%

20%

31%

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