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More Fruit and Veggies Now, Better Arteries Later

Children Who Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables Less Likely to Have Stiff Arteries as Adults
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Nov. 29, 2010 -- Just in time for the holidays, here's a new reason to get children to eat their veggies.

Children who eat a lot of fruit and vegetables have healthier, less stiff arteries as young adults compared to children who don't load up on fruit and veggies, according to a new study.

Researchers say arterial stiffness is tied to atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, which is a key factor in heart disease. When arteries become stiff, the heart has to work harder to pump blood effectively.

In the study, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, Finnish researchers compared childhood and adult lifestyle factors, including fruit and vegetable intake, alcohol use, and smoking with arterial stiffness in 1,622 Finns who were followed for 27 years from a baseline age of between 3 and 18.

Arterial stiffness was measured using pulse wave velocity.

“When the heart beats, the blood’s ejection causes a pulse wave, which travels along the wall of the arterial tree,” researcher Mika Kahonen, MD, PhD, professor and chief physician for the department of clinical physiology at Tampere University Hospital in Tampere, Finland, says in a news release. “The velocity of this pulse wave is dependent on the stiffness of the arterial wall; the stiffer the wall, the higher velocity. It is well known that the arterial stiffening process has a major role in the development of cardiovascular diseases."

The results showed that children who ate fewer vegetables tended to have a higher pulse wave velocity as adults, even after adjusting for other potential risk factors, such as cholesterol levels.

“These findings suggest that a lifetime pattern of low consumption of fruits and vegetables is related to arterial stiffness in young adulthood,” Kahonen says. “Parents and pediatricians have yet another reason to encourage children to consume high amounts of fruits and vegetables.”

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