While it seems logical that fruit and vegetable consumption would enhance our chances of living a longer life, few large cohort studies have officially investigated the association. The scant experiments that exist have produced inconsistent results, say authors of a study published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [2013, 98 (2), 454-59].

Scientists at the Units of Nutritional Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, set out to explore the link between fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality in a large group (71,706 participants) aged 45-83. In 13 years of follow-up tracking, 11,439 of the participants died. Compared with participants who said they ate five fruits and vegetables per day, those who consumed fewer were linked to higher mortality rates, reported the researchers.

“Those who never consumed fruits and vegetables lived 3 years shorter and had a 53% higher mortality rate than did those who consumed five servings of fruits and vegetables per day,” the study authors said.

Those who never consumed fruit lived 19 months less than those who ate one fruit per day. The study also found that participants who consumed three vegetables per day lived 32 months longer than those who never consumed vegetables.

The researchers concluded that eating fewer than five fruit and vegetable servings per day was associated with shorter survival and higher mortality rates.