Fruit, Vegetable Consumption May Avert Peripheral Artery Disease

Low intake of fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The US Department of Agriculture recommends that adults eat 1.5 to 2 portions of fruit and 2 to 3 portions of vegetables per day to reap the benefits of a healthy diet; however, many Americans do not meet these guidelines and may be at an increased risk of developing certain diseases.

The authors discovered that consuming 3 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day may significantly reduce the risk of developing peripheral artery disease (PAD), according to a study published by Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

PAD is characterized by the narrowing of arteries in the legs due to fatty deposits and calcium. This restricts blood flow from reaching the muscles, which can result in pain or difficulty walking or standing.

Previous studies have shown that low intake of fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, but there have been few studies exploring the link between the food and PAD.

Included in the new study were data from more than 3.7 million individuals who completed questionnaires and ankle brachial index tests, which compares blood pressure differences in the ankle and forearm.

The investigators reported that approximately 6.3% of patients were diagnosed with PAD and 29.2% participants indicated they consumed 3 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

The authors discovered that patients who consumed 3 or more portions of fruits and vegetables per day had an 18% reduced risk of PAD compared with patients reporting less consumption, according to the study.

“Our current study provides important information to the public that something as simple as adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet could have a major impact on the prevalence of life-altering peripheral artery disease,” said study co-author Jeffrey Berger, MD.

Even after accounting for age, gender, race, smoking status, and cardiovascular risks, the link between fruit and vegetable intake and PAD risk persisted, according to the study.

When patients were separated based on smoking status, the authors discovered that dietary intake and PAD were strongly linked among current and former smokers.

The authors discovered that older white women were the most likely to consume 3 or more daily portions of fruits and vegetables, while younger black men were the least likely, according to the study.

The authors noted that their study confirms that overall fruit and vegetable intake is extremely low. The findings suggest that increasing the intake of healthy foods may positively impact health and prevent the development of PAD.

“Our study gives further evidence for the importance of incorporating more fruits and vegetables in the diet,” said study co-author Sean Heffron, MD, MS, MSc. “One-on-one dietary assessments and counseling for PAD patients, as well as greater public health awareness of the importance of fruit and vegetable consumption, are both needed.”