Daily Consumption of Fruits, Vegetables May Reduce Risk of Blockages in Leg Arteries

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A new study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology found that consuming fruit and vegetables may lower the risk of peripheral artery disease.

Eating three or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day may lower risk of developing PAD.

Eating three or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day may lower risk of developing PAD.

“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 co-author Dr. Jeffrey Berger, an associate professor of medicine and surgery at New York University School of Medicine.

“Our study gives further evidence for the importance of incorporating more fruits and vegetables in the diet,” said lead author Dr. Sean Heffron, an instructor in medicine at New York University School of Medicine.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) narrows the arteries of the legs, limiting blood flow to the muscles and making it difficult or painful to walk or stand.

“Although fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, its association with PAD is less certain,” the study authors said.

“We, thus, sought to characterize fruit and vegetable intake and investigate the association between fruit and vegetable consumption and presence of PAD in a large community sample.”

After studying data from almost 3.7 million people (mean age was 64 years and 64.1% were female), the researchers found:

(i) people who reported eating three or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables had 18% lower odds of PAD than those reporting eating less;

(ii) when stratified by smoking status, the association of lower PAD and increased fruits and vegetables was present only among participants who were current or former smokers;

(iii) overall, 6.3% of participants had PAD and 29.2% reported eating three or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

The participants completed medical and lifestyle questionnaires and ankle brachial index tests (comparison of blood pressure differences between readings at the ankle and the forearm) at more than 20,000 sites across the United States.

“Our study confirmed that Americans’ overall fruit and vegetable intake remains dismally low,” the authors said.

“The association of fruit and vegetable intake and lower PAD risk persisted after accounting for age, gender, race, smoking status and multiple other cardiovascular risk factors.”

“Older white women were most likely to eat three or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, while younger black men were the least likely to report daily intake of three or more servings of fruits and vegetables.”

“Low fruit and vegetable intake was particularly associated with PAD among current and former smokers.”

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Sean P. Heffron et al. 2017. Greater Frequency of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption is Associated with Lower Prevalence of Peripheral Artery Disease. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 37 (6): 1234-1240; doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.116.308474