Fight Death With Fruit
May 16, 2000 -- An apple a day may keep death at bay (if not quite the
doctor away) according to a new Swedish study, which found that middle-age and
elderly men who ate the most fruit tended to live longer than those who ate the
"It's a very interesting study; they did seem to find that high fruit
intake was associated with reduced risk of [death] among men," Katherine
Tucker, PhD, tells WebMD. Tucker, an associate professor of nutritional
epidemiology at Tufts University in Boston, was not involved in the study.
The researchers followed a group of more than 700 men born in 1913, from age
54 (in 1967) to age 80 (in 1993). They were asked how often they ate certain
foods, such as fruits/vegetables, sweets, and meats, and they were re-examined
There were fewer overall deaths and deaths related to heart problems among
men who ate the most fruit, compared to those who ate the least. The study
found no difference in the rates of heart disease -- those who ate more
fruit were just less likely to die of the disease. They also found no
difference between groups where rates of cancer and cancer deaths were
Another thing that the researchers did not see: a link between vegetable
consumption and survival.
"Most of the studies I have seen find [benefits] with both fruits and
vegetables," says Tucker. "That makes sense because fruits and
vegetables tend to contain similar types of nutrients but come in different
But before you pass on the peas or toss the turnip, Tucker says that there
may be a good reason why the researchers saw no connection between vegetable
consumption and survival: not enough information. The study participants were
asked about food consumption only once, at the first interview in 1967, when
vegetable consumption in Sweden among men was quite low. Since then, other
studies have shown that people in Sweden have increased their vegetable
consumption. So it may be that incomplete data influenced the results.
Tucker says that people shouldn't interpret the study to mean that
vegetables aren't important. "That is not a good message. I think that
although it sounds confusing, the data are actually very consistent and
becoming much more clear," she says, adding that there have been literally
hundreds of studies associating high fruit and vegetable intakes with lower
risk of heart disease and cancer. "I think that most studies either show an
effect or tend towards an effect, but sometimes it is difficult to
"If we really show fruit has a strong, demonstrable effect, adding more
fruit to your diet is an easy thing to do that might make a real
difference," she says.
But Tucker warns against trying to substitute supplements for the real deal.
"Fruits and vegetables have a whole spectrum of vitamins and minerals and
phytochemicals that are protecting us in a very complicated ways," she
says. "Isolating one of those compounds and taking a megadose is not going
to give you a benefit."
- A study of Swedish men shows that those who ate the most fruits lived
longer than those who ate the least.
- Researchers were surprised that no similar effect was found for eating
vegetables, but say they may not have collected enough data on vegetable
- Although eating fruit decreased a person's chance of dying, it did not
effect the rate of getting an illness, such as cancer or heart disease.