With heart disease and obesity rampant across the globe, it’s hard to avoid falling victim to costly medications and fad diets. But new research reveals a simple, yet effective, way to support our heart health once and for all.
It seems like every second story in the news cycle is about the latest trending weight loss method. And while mankind has been transfixed on achieving peak physical condition since the dawn of time, we’ve entered a brand new age of pursuit.
But researchers behind a new study diving into the impact fresh fruit and vegetables have on our overall health have released their latest findings, proving once and for all the power of healthy, unprocessed nutrition.
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What the study entailed
Facilitated by the American Heart Association, the study followed several groups of adults with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Doctors authorised ‘produce’ prescriptions to the participants, encouraging an increase in their daily consumption of fruits and vegetables.
“Patients received electronic cards or vouchers to access free or discounted produce of their choice at retail grocery or farmers‘ markets,” says study lead author Kurt Hager, Ph.D., M.S.
Receiving a median monthly allowance of $63.00 USD, participants purchased fresh produce from local food stores and farmers markets.
At the commencement of the study, participants were asked to complete questionnaires about their fruit and vegetable consumption, health status, and food security, as well as undergo testing of their general health stats. At the study’s conclusion, all questionnaires and physiological tests were repeated for comparison.
The results speak for themselves
At the conclusion of the study, an overwhelming majority of the participants recorded measurable reductions in their blood pressure, body mass index and blood sugar levels.
Adult participants reported their average intake of fruits and vegetables increased by almost one cup per day, and children involved in the study recorded an average increase of a quarter cup per day.
When initial readings of systolic blood pressure were compared with data at the conclusion of the research, the participants were found to have experienced a decrease of more than 8 mm of mercury. Of the participants who entered the study with high blood pressure, a decrease of nearly 5 mm in diastolic blood pressure was recorded.
Blood sugar amongst the participants was found to have decreased by 0.29 to 0.58 percentage points among adults with diabetes.
BMI also significantly improved across the board, with adults categorised as obese recording a reduction of 0.52 kgs per square metre among adults with obesity.
„This analysis of produce prescription programs illustrates the potential of subsidised produce prescriptions to increase consumption of nutritious fruits and vegetables, reduce food insecurity and, hopefully, improve subjective and objective health measures,” says Dr Mitchell Elkind, chief clinical science officer of the American Heart Association.
More than just nutritional benefits
Not only did the study prove its measurable success through physiological factors, the research team found additional socioeconomic benefits, such as an increase in food security.
„We know that food insecurity impacts health through several important pathways, including overall dietary quality,” said Hager. “But also through stress and anxiety, mental health and tradeoffs between paying for food and other basic needs such as housing costs, utilities and medications.”
Despite only lasting several months, participants attended nutrition classes throughout the study period, promoting and instilling long-term healthy habits.
While the study was conducted in a controlled setting, it still offers great news for anyone looking to naturally support their heart health. Outside of the study, you don’t actually need a prescription for fresh fruits and vegetables. They’re easily accessible, an economical alternative to other forms of nutrition, and promote sustainability.