Eating more fruit may decrease your risk of suffering a dangerous vascular condition known as abdominal aortic aneurysm, said a Swedish study published Monday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm is a ballooning of the lower part of the aorta, the main blood vessel that supplies the body. It's relatively rare, but can be lethal. Older men, especially those who have smoked, are at higher risk.
Ultrasound screening, which uses sound waves to image structures in the body, can easily detect the condition.
In their study, researchers from the Stockholm-based Karolinska Institutet divided more than 80,000 people aged 46 to 84 into four equal-size groups based on how much fruit and vegetables they reported eating.
In the next 13 years, hospital and death records showed 1,086 people had abdominal aortic aneurysms, including 222 whose aneurysms ruptured. More than 80 percent of the aneurysms and ruptures were in men.
The researchers found that people who reported eating more than two servings of fruit daily had a 25 percent lower risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm and 43 percent lower risk of a ruptured aneurysm than those who ate the least amount of fruit.
Compared with those who didn't eat any fruit, those who had two servings a day had a 31 percent lower risk of a nonruptured aneurysm and a 39 percent lower risk of a ruptured aneurysm, they said.
The researchers suspect that high levels of antioxidants in fruits might protect against abdominal aortic aneurysm by preventing oxidative stress that can promote inflammation.
"A high consumption of fruits may help to prevent many vascular diseases, and our study suggests that a lower risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm will be among the benefits," lead author Otto Stackelberg of the Karolinska Institutet said.
The researchers found no association for vegetables, which are also rich in antioxidants. Vegetables lack some types of antioxidants that are in fruits, which might help explain the fruit versus vegetable findings, Stackelberg said.
"Vegetables remain important for health. Other studies have found that eating more fruits and vegetables may decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and several cancers," Stackelberg said.
In the study, people ate apples and pears the most, followed by bananas, oranges and other citrus fruits.
The American Heart Association advises the average adult to eat four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily.
Being a nonsmoker is also crucial in preventing abdominal aortic aneurysm. "Never start smoking; and if you already do smoke, quit today. It's never too late," Stackelberg said.