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Fruit and vegetable intake and cause-specific mortality in the EPIC study

Abstract

Consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower overall mortality. The aim of this study was to identify causes of death through which this association is established. More than 450,000 participants from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study were included, of which 25,682 were reported deceased after 13 years of follow-up. Information on lifestyle, diet and vital status was collected through questionnaires and population registries. Hazard ratios (HR) with 95 % confidence intervals (95 % CI) for death from specific causes were calculated from Cox regression models, adjusted for potential confounders. Participants reporting consumption of more than 569 g/day of fruits and vegetables had lower risks of death from diseases of the circulatory (HR for upper fourth 0.85, 95 % CI 0.77–0.93), respiratory (HR for upper fourth 0.73, 95 % CI 0.59–0.91) and digestive system (HR for upper fourth 0.60, 95 % CI 0.46–0.79) when compared with participants consuming less than 249 g/day. In contrast, a positive association with death from diseases of the nervous system was observed. Inverse associations were generally observed for vegetable, but not for fruit consumption. Associations were more pronounced for raw vegetable consumption, when compared with cooked vegetable consumption. Raw vegetable consumption was additionally inversely associated with death from neoplasms and mental and behavioral disorders. The lower risk of death associated with a higher consumption of fruits and vegetables may be derived from inverse associations with diseases of the circulatory, respiratory and digestive system, and may depend on the preparation of vegetables and lifestyle factors.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the European Commission (DG-SANCO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (coordination of EPIC). The national cohorts are supported by Danish Cancer Society (Denmark); Ligue Contre le Cancer, Institut Gustave Roussy, Mutuelle Générale de l’Education Nationale, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) (France); Deutsche Krebshilfe, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum and Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Germany); Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity, Stavros Niarchos Foundation and Hellenic Health Foundation (Greece); Italian Association for Research on Cancer (AIRC) and National Research Council (Italy); Dutch Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sports (VWS), Netherlands Cancer Registry (NKR), LK Research Funds, Dutch Prevention Funds, Dutch Zorg Onderzoek Nederland (ZON), World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), Statistics Netherlands (The Netherlands); ERC-2009-AdG 232997 and Nordforsk, Nordic Centre of Excellence programme on Food, Nutrition and Health. (Norway); Health Research Fund (FIS), Regional Governments of Andalucía, Asturias, Basque Country, Murcia (Nº 6236) and Navarra, Instituto de Salud Carlos III - Redes Telemáticas de Investigación Cooperativa en Salud (RD06/0020) (Spain); Swedish Cancer Society, Swedish Scientific Council and Regional Government of Skåne and Västerbotten (Sweden); Cancer Research UK, Medical Research Council, Stroke Association, British Heart Foundation, Department of Health, Food Standards Agency, and Wellcome Trust (United Kingdom). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Max Leenders.

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Leenders, M., Boshuizen, H.C., Ferrari, P. et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and cause-specific mortality in the EPIC study. Eur J Epidemiol 29, 639–652 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-014-9945-9

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Keywords

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Mortality
  • Nutrition
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Respiratory disease