Fruits and vegetables help us live longer and thus provide us with some of the best plant medicines. This notion is no longer based on the sayings of our parents as they told us to eat our vegetables.
Today, it is based on some of the most stringent research by some of the most respected scientists in the world who have dedicated their lives to discerning what foods and diets reduce disease and help us live longer.
Not only that, but the research is finding that eating more fruits and veggies will significantly help reduce climate change. Now that is a cool reason to eat more fruits and veggies.
In this article
More fruits and veggies reduces deaths
In a recent study, medical scientists from Japan’s National Institute of Health and Nutrition, along with the Gifu University Graduate School of Medicine and the Yokohama City University conducted a large study.
The researchers followed nearly 95,000 people for more than 20 years. During this time they tracked the deaths of the population, focusing on cancer, heart disease and lung disease deaths, along with deaths from any cause.
The people were aged an average of 54 years old at the beginning of the study. The scientists tracked the consumption of fruits and vegetables by each participant. None of them had cancer or heart disease at the beginning of the study.
The research divided the relative fruit and vegetable consumption into five levels, from ranking from low to high consumption.
They found that those who consumed the most fruits and vegetables had an 8-9 percent reduction of deaths from any causes compared to those who consumed less fruits and vegetables. Fruits in particular were linked to reductions in cardiovascular deaths.
During this nearly 21 years, nearly 24,000 of the group died. After they made various adjustments to make the data fair, the researchers found that those who ate the most fruit had a 8-10 percent less chance of dying from any cause.
Higher vegetable consumption was very close to this, with an 8 percent lower rate of death during the study from any cause.
Fruits were particularly good for heart disease, with a 9 percent lower rate of cardiovascular deaths.
More Veggies could save 8 million lives
Another study, done by Oxford University researchers in 2016 tracked some of the same data, but also the environmental effects. This study found that eating a diet with more fruits and vegetables and less meat would save an estimated 8 million lives by 2050.
One of the factors of this relates to the environmental effects of a diet switch to more fruits and vegetables. Such a diet change would also significantly reduce global warming according to the research. Greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by about two-thirds by 2050 according to the study.
The Oxford scientists also estimated that such a dietary shift would save an estimated $1.5 trillion (that’s trillion with a T) in climate-related damage.
The study’s lead author was Dr Marco Springmann. Dr. Springmann is part of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food. Dr. Springmann said:
“What we eat greatly influences our personal health and the global environment. Imbalanced diets, such as diets low in fruits and vegetables, and high in red and processed meat, are responsible for the greatest health burden globally and in most regions. At the same time the food system is also responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore a major driver of climate change.”
Imbalanced diets, such as diets low in fruits and vegetables, and high in red and processed meat, are responsible for the greatest health burden globally and … (are) also responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions,” added Dr. Springmann.
Then there is the direct effect of fruits and vegetables extending life.
How did they figure this out?
Calculating both the health and environmental effects of reduced fruit and vegetable consumption utilized four diet scenarios by the researchers:
– ‘business as usual’ coming from current diet projections
– global dietary guidelines recommending minimum amounts of fruits and vegetables
– a vegetarian scenario
– a vegan scenario
The research found a global dietary guidelines scenario could avoid 5.1 million deaths per year by 2050.
But a vegetarian diet would avoiding 7.3 million deaths. And a vegan diet would avert 8.1 million deaths.
About half of the avoided deaths came from reduced red meat consumption. The other half came from increased fruit and vegetable consumption and the subsequent weight loss, reducing obesity-related diseases.
The study also found that by 2050, food-related greenhouse gasses should account for half of the reduction needed to get to the goal of limiting temperature increases to less than 2°C.
The global dietary guidelines scenario would cut related emissions by 29%. But the vegetarian scenario would cut emissions by 63%, while the vegan scenario would cut emissions 70%, if everyone adopted such diets.
Sahashi Y, Goto A, Takachi R, Ishihara J, Kito K, Kanehara R, Yamaji T, Iwasaki M, Inoue M, Shoichiro T, Sawada N. Inverse Association between Fruit and Vegetable Intake and All-Cause Mortality: Japan Public Health Center-Based Prospective Study. J Nutr. 2022 Jun 28:nxac136. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxac136.
“Veggie-based diets could save 8 million lives by 2050 and cut global warming.” University of Oxford News and Events. 2016 Mar 16.
Springmann M, Godfray HC, Rayner M, Scarborough P. Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Apr 12;113(15):4146-51. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1523119113.