Daily Briefing

Most fruits and vegetables are associated with better health. (There are some exceptions.)


Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on June 23, 2023.

A new study affirms long-standing nutritional guidelines on how eating five servings of fruits and vegetables can help people live longer. But it also adds some insights on precisely which fruits and vegetables are beneficial, and which are merely "neutral."

Improve patient access to nutrition-reinforced diets

Study details

In a new study published in Circulation, Dong Wang, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, and colleagues examined the optimal intake of fruits and vegetables for long-term health. They followed two prospective cohort studies of more than 100,000 U.S. residents over a 30-year period. The researchers then conducted a dose-response meta-analysis of those two studies, along with 24 other cohort studies conducted around the world. Overall, the research involved more than 1.8 million participants.

According to the study in Circulation, serving size varied across the cohort studies reviewed, but the researchers for the dose-response meta-analysis "converted fruit and vegetable intake in grams into servings using 80g as a standard serving size." In comparison, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans categorizes one serving of fruits or vegetables ranges as two cups of leafy salad greens, one cup of raw or cooked vegetables or fruit, one cup of vegetable or fruit juice, or half a cup of dried fruits or vegetables. 

Study: More fruits and vegetables, longer life—up to a limit

Overall, the researchers found that people who ate a mix of two servings of fruit plus three servings of vegetables per day (for a total of five servings) had "a 13% lower risk of all-cause death compared to people who eat two servings of fruit and vegetables per day," Wang said, although he noted the study proved correlation, not causation.

In addition, people who consumed two servings of fruit plus three servings of vegetables per day also had a 35% lower fatality risk from respiratory disease, a 12% lower fatality risk from cardiovascular disease, and a 10% lower fatality risk from cancer, when compared to people who ate just two servings per day.

Interestingly, however, the study found that consuming more than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day did not correlate with additional benefits. Risk reduction appeared to plateau at five servings per day, a Washington Post article about the study reports. That said, eating more than five servings of fruits and vegetables wasn't associated with any increase in overall mortality risk, according to Wang's study. In addition, other research has suggested that more than five servings could be linked to disease prevention, according to the Post.

In comparison, however, most Americans typically consume just one daily serving of fruit and one-and-a-half daily servings of vegetables. That’s well below the quantity recommended by Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is up to nine servings per day, or by the amount recommended by Wang, et al., in their recent study, the Post reports.

The fruits and vegetables that don't make the cut

The study also found that while nearly all fruits and vegetables—including leafy greens, citrus, and berries—were linked with lower overall mortality, there were a few foods that weren't. Specifically, the researchers found that fruit juices and starchy vegetables—including corn, potatoes, and peas—were not linked to a reduced risk of death or chronic disease, potentially because these fruits and vegetables have a more significant effect on blood sugar levels.

However, the study didn't indicate that consuming fruit juice or starchy vegetables increased anyone's risk of mortality either—they simply didn't appear to reduce their mortality risk. As the Post’s Cara Rosenbloom put it, "Consider them neutral."

Nonetheless, by distinguishing between those types of fruits and vegetables and others, the study differed from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to the Post, which currently categorizes all fruit and vegetable consumption equally—even fruit juice (Searing, Washington Post, 3/7; Rosenbloom, Washington Post, 3/18).


Learn more: Improve patient access to nutrition-reinforced diets

Provider-Led Strategies to Address Food Insecurity

Explore best practice models for implementing programs to address food insecurity, learn from seven provider organizations that represent a broad range of food insecurity interventions, and get action steps for improving patient access to nutrition-reinforced diets.


SPONSORED BY

INTENDED AUDIENCE

AFTER YOU READ THIS

AUTHORS

TOPICS

MORE FROM TODAY'S DAILY BRIEFING

Don't miss out on the latest Advisory Board insights

Create your free account to access 2 resources each month, including the latest research and webinars.

Want access without creating an account?

   

You have 2 free members-only resources remaining this month remaining this month.

1 free members-only resources remaining this month

1 free members-only resources remaining this month

You've reached your limit of free monthly insights

Become a member to access all of Advisory Board's resources, events, and experts

Never miss out on the latest innovative health care content tailored to you.

Benefits include:

Unlimited access to research and resources
Member-only access to events and trainings
Expert-led consultation and facilitation
The latest content delivered to your inbox

You've reached your limit of free monthly insights

Become a member to access all of Advisory Board's resources, events, and experts

Never miss out on the latest innovative health care content tailored to you.

Benefits include:

Unlimited access to research and resources
Member-only access to events and trainings
Expert-led consultation and facilitation
The latest content delivered to your inbox
AB
Thank you! Your updates have been made successfully.
Oh no! There was a problem with your request.
Error in form submission. Please try again.