News Science Millions of Deaths Tied to Not Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables By Melissa Breyer Editorial Director Hunter College F.I.T., State University of New York Cornell University Melissa Breyer is Treehugger’s editorial director. She is a sustainability expert and author whose work has been published by the New York Times and National Geographic, among others. our editorial process Melissa Breyer Published June 10, 2019 Updated May 21, 2020 07:36AM EDT ©. andy0man/Shutterstock Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices New research finds that inadequate consumption of produce may account for 2.8 million deaths a year. I will now put on my mother hat and tell you this: Eat your fruits and vegetables. Here’s why. A new study finds that inadequate consumption of produce may account for 2.8 million deaths, globally, from heart disease and strokes each year. The researchers concluded that low fruit intake resulted in 1.8 million cardiovascular deaths in 2010, while not eating enough vegetables resulted in 1 million deaths. "Fruits and vegetables are a modifiable component of the diet that can impact preventable deaths globally," said lead study author Victoria Miller, a postdoctoral researcher at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. "Our findings indicate the need for population-based efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the world." Eating Fruit and Vegetables Saves Many Lives The researchers used data from 2010 and found Suboptimal fruit consumption resulted in in nearly 1.3 million deaths from stroke and more than 520,000 deaths from coronary heart disease. Suboptimal vegetable consumption resulted in around 200,000 deaths from stroke and more than 800,000 deaths from coronary heart disease. For the study, the researchers used dietary guidelines and studies of cardiovascular risk factors to come up with a fruit and vegetable standards, they defined: Optimal fruit intake: 300 grams per day, equivalent to roughly two small apples.Optimal intake of vegetables: Including legumes, 400 grams per day, equivalent to about three cups of raw carrots. The data they used came from 113 countries, comprising around 82 percent of the world’s population. Countries in South Asia, East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa had low fruit intake and high rates of associated stroke deaths. Countries in Central Asia and Oceania had low vegetable intake and high rates of associated coronary heart disease. Mapping the Percentage of Cardiovascular Deaths The maps below show the percentage of cardiovascular deaths (CVD) attributable to suboptimal vegetable and fruit intake in countries around the world. Global Dietary Database 2010/Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University/CC BY 4.0 Global Dietary Database 2010/Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University/CC BY 4.0 Even the United States, with all of our relative abundance and generous natural resources, didn’t fare that well. In the U.S., not eating enough vegetables accounted for 82,000 cardiovascular deaths while suboptimal fruit was linked to 57,000 deaths for the year. "Global nutrition priorities have traditionally focused on providing sufficient calories, vitamin supplementation and reducing additives like salt and sugar," said senior study author Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. "These findings indicate a need to expand the focus to increasing availability and consumption of protective foods like fruits, vegetables, and legumes--a positive message with tremendous potential for improving global health." The research was presented at Nutrition 2019, the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting.