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Fruits, Veggies Have Limits in Boosting Lifespan?

Study shows a benefit, but that tapers off after 5 servings per day

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The investigators found a link between eating fruits and vegetables and a lower risk of death overall during the study follow-up periods, as well as a reduced risk of death from heart disease. However, fruits and vegetables did not seem to have any effect on a person's specific risk of death from cancer.

Fruits and vegetables contain a broad variety of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients but not a load of calories, Hu and Dubost said. Chowing down on them allows a person to get much of the nutrition they need without risking weight gain, they noted.

The nutrients found in fruits and vegetables have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic diseases, Hu said.

Fruits and vegetables also are a major source of dietary fiber. "Fiber obviously helps with a healthier gut and moves things through the system," Dubost said. "It also can help with weight loss and reduce heart disease."

What about vegetarians? Even if the benefits of fruits and vegetables level off after five daily servings, that does not necessarily mean that vegetarians are less healthy than people who eat meat, both Hu and Dubost said.

Hu noted that in reviewing the benefits of a vegetarian diet, you also have to consider the health benefits of decreased consumption of meat -- something his study did not review.

"The potential of vegetarian diets could be due to a combination of both," he said.

The report was published online July 29 in BMJ.

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