Eating vegetables alone ‘isn’t enough’ to reduce heart risk: study

Not according to researchers from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Bristol.

They studied 399,586 participants through the UK Biobank, which tracks the health of half a million adults in the UK by linking to their health records. After enrolling in 2006-2010, these volunteers were followed over the next 12 years regarding their diet, lifestyle, medical and reproductive history, and other factors.

On average, people reported eating two heaping tablespoons of raw vegetables, three of cooked vegetables, and five total per day.

The study found that the risk of dying from CVD was about 15% lower for those who ate the most compared to those who ate the least vegetables.

However, this apparent effect was significantly attenuated when possible socioeconomic, nutritional, and health and medical confounders were taken into account.

Controlling for these factors reduced the predictive statistical power of vegetable consumption on CVD by more than 80%, suggesting that more precise measures of these confounders would have completely explained any residual effect of vegetable consumption.

“In this study of 0.4 million middle-aged adults with a 12-year follow-up, higher intakes of raw but uncooked vegetables were associated with lower CVD risk,”the study concluded. “However, given the large reductions in the predictive values ​​of raw vegetable intake after adjusting for socioeconomic and lifestyle factors, residual confounding is likely to explain many, if not all, of the associations remaining.”

Dr Qi Feng, a researcher at the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford and lead author of the study, said: “Our large study found no evidence of a protective effect of vegetable consumption on the occurrence of cardiovascular disease. Instead, our analyzes show that the apparently protective effect of vegetable consumption against the risk of CVD is most likely explained through residual confounders, related to differences in socioeconomic status and lifestyle.

He suggested that future studies should further assess whether particular types of vegetables or their method of preparation might affect CVD risk.

Dr Ben Lacey, associate professor in the department at Oxford University, concluded: “This is an important study that has implications for understanding the dietary causes of cardiovascular disease and the burden of cardiovascular disease normally attributed to low vegetable intake. However, eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight are still important for maintaining good health and reducing the risk of major diseases, including certain cancers. It is widely recommended to eat at least five servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables each day.

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