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EDITIONS
Eat greens for a healthy heart
Apples
Fresh fruit is good for you
Scientists have come up with hard evidence that eating fruit and vegetables cuts the risk of heart disease.

Patients who increased their intake of fruit and vegetables on the advice of a practice nurse developed lower blood pressure.


This is the first time a study has shown that blood pressure rates can be reduced through a nurse led education programme

Professor Andrew Neil
The findings follow a similar study published this week that found eating more fruit and vegetables could help to reduce the risk of a range of serious disease, including cancer.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the tell-tale signs of an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

The researchers say that if a similar effect was achieved throughout the UK, the threat of CHD - currently the nation's biggest killer - would be significantly reduced.

The research, conducted at two local GP surgeries in Oxfordshire, involved 690 men and women aged between 25 and 64.

Impressive results

Half of the patients received an initial consultation with a nurse to plan how they could fit more fruit and vegetables into their diet followed by a phone call and letter to reinforce the message.


It is worrying that on average people in the UK only eat half the fruit and vegetables they need to meet their minimum daily requirement

Professor Sir Charles George
The remaining patients in the 'control' group were given no advice at all, until the end of the trial.

The results show the patients who received and followed the advice reduced their systolic blood pressure by an average of 4.0mmHg and the diastolic blood pressure by 1.5mmHg over a six-month period.

The people who took part in the study were not asked to reduce their fat intake or take extra physical activity, neither did they lose any weight.

It is therefore likely that any reductions in blood pressure are related to the increase in fruit and vegetable intake.

Lead researcher Professor Andrew Neil said: "Other studies have shown that you can reduce blood pressure through diets in a controlled environment.

"This is the first time a study has shown that blood pressure rates can be reduced through a nurse led education programme at the local GP surgery."

Anti-oxidants

The study also found that patients who had advice from the practice nurse were consuming around nine additional portions of fruit and vegetables a week.

Fruit and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that help prevent the furring of the arteries that causes CHD.

Professor Sir Charles George is medical director of the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study.

He said: "It is worrying that on average people in the UK only eat half the fruit and vegetables they need to meet their minimum daily requirement of five portions.

"Whilst further research is needed to understand the link between reduced blood pressure and eating more greens, this study shows that eating more fruit and vegetables helps reduce the risk of CHD."

High blood pressure is often untreated because people do not know they have it.

Around one in four adults in the UK have high blood pressure and about third of all these are not being treated.

The research is published in The Lancet.

See also:

02 Mar 01 | Health
28 Jun 01 | Health
18 Jun 01 | Health
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