Policies that lower prices of fruits and vegetables may be our best weapon against heart disease, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology/Lifestyle 2016 Scientific Sessions.
The first study, conducted at Tufts University and the University of Liverpool, used a computer model to estimate the impact of changes in fruit and vegetable prices and consumption on death rates.
Fruits and vegetables boast a wealth of health benefits, from promoting a healthy weight to preventing chronic diseases like heart disease. While current U.S. guidelines recommend filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, few Americans actually meet these guidelines. Experts have tried to identify ways in which to improve diets and prevent heart disease—America’s No. 1 killer.
Using the U.S. IMPACT Food Policy model, researchers estimate that reducing fruit and vegetable prices by 10% through 2030 could lower the death rate from heart disease and stroke by about 1% This change would save an estimated 64,000–69,000 lives over the next 15 years. Better yet, a 30% price drop would reduce the death rate by 3%, saving 191,000–205,000 lives by 2030.
A second study also presented at the recent conference showed similar findings. Conducted by researchers at Tufts University and Harvard Medical School, this study found that a 10% price reduction on fruits and vegetables could decrease deaths from heart disease by 2% in 20 years. Combined with a 10% price increase on sugary beverages and a 10% price reduction on whole grains, researchers estimate that we could prevent 515,000 deaths from heart disease by 2035.
As experts explain, these findings support simple policy changes to create broad shifts in eating habits. “A change in your diet can be challenging,” said Thomas A. Gaziano, MD, MSc, the lead author and assistant professor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA. “But if achieved through personal choice or changes in the market place, it can have a profound effect on your cardiovascular health.”