Despite the significant health benefits of fruit, few Chinese adults consume fresh fruit on a regular basis, according to research recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
There’s no question that fruits and veggies are key to a heart-healthy diet. Current U.S. guidelines recommend that we fill half of our plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal. In doing so, we can improve our health, promote a healthy weight and reduce risk for chronic diseases like heart disease. But consumption of fruits and veggies differs from country to country, often varying by culture. Fruit consumption is especially low in China, causing concern about its impact on heart health.
To learn more, researchers surveyed more than 512,000 Chinese adults about their health, diet and lifestyle choices. The study was conducted between 2004 and 2008 and the average age of participants was 51 years old. For the purpose of analysis, researchers excluded anyone with a history of heart disease or who was on blood pressure medication, leaving 451,665 adults in the final analysis.
Overall, researchers found that only 18% of participants consumed fresh fruit (not including frozen, dried or canned fruit) on a regular basis. Less than 10% reported fruit consumption on 4–6 days a week and more than 6% reported no fresh fruit consumption at all. Adults were more likely to consume fruit if they were younger, female, lived in urban areas or had a higher level of education and higher income.
Not surprisingly, researchers found that adults consuming fresh fruit had better health outcomes over the ten-year period. Adults consuming fresh fruit daily had significantly lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels than those with no fruit consumption. Participants who ate fresh fruit daily also had 25–36% lower risk for heart attack and stroke compared to adults with no fresh fruit consumption. Daily fresh fruit consumption reduced risk for heart-related death by 40% compared to no fresh fruit consumption.
Researchers also found a strong relationship between the amount of fruit adults consumed and their risk for heart events and death. In other words, the more fruit adults consumed regularly, the lower their cardiovascular risk.
Findings confirm that in China where fruit consumption is low, daily fruit consumption helps protect against heart disease. Since stroke rates are especially high in China, findings suggest that low fruit consumption may be to blame for some of the increased burden. Therefore, authors conclude that increasing fruit consumption may be one way to improve heart health and prevent heart disease, particularly in China.