Aims A higher intake of fruits and vegetables has been associated with a lower risk of ischaemic heart disease (IHD), but there is some uncertainty about the interpretation of this association. The objective was to assess the relation between fruit and vegetable intake and risk of mortality from IHD in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Heart study.
Methods and results After an average of 8.4 years of follow-up, there were 1636 deaths from IHD among 313 074 men and women without previous myocardial infarction or stroke from eight European countries. Participants consuming at least eight portions (80 g each) of fruits and vegetables a day had a 22% lower risk of fatal IHD [relative risk (RR) = 0.78, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.65–0.95] compared with those consuming fewer than three portions a day. After calibration of fruit and vegetable intake to account for differences in dietary assessment between the participating centres, a one portion (80 g) increment in fruit and vegetable intake was associated with a 4% lower risk of fatal IHD (RR = 0.96, 95% CI: 0.92–1.00, P for trend = 0.033).
Conclusion Results from this large observational study suggest that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of IHD mortality. Whether this association is causal and, if so, the biological mechanism(s) by which fruits and vegetables operate to lower IHD risks remains unclear.