Premature Death: Reduce Your Risk by 31%

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Premature Death

Add 3.4 Disease-Free Years To Your Life

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

reduce premature deathIf you could reduce your risk of:

  • Heart Disease (primarily heart attack) by 24%,
  • Stroke by 33%,
  • Cancer by 14%
  • Premature death by 31% (That would add approximately 3.4 years of disease-free years to your lifespan),

Would you be interested in knowing more?

What if you could enjoy all these benefits:

  • Without it costing you an extra penny?
  • Without any side effects?
  • And you felt great?

Would you like to know the secret?  The secret is a diet rich in fruits and vegetables – probably a lot more fruits and vegetables than you are currently eating. Let’s look at the evidence.

How Was The Study Done?

reduce heart attacksYou may be saying “That’s not news. I’ve heard that before.” Yes, there have probably been hundreds of clinical studies looking at the benefits of diets rich in fruits and vegetables. There have also been several meta-analyses that have combined the data from many individual studies to improve that statistical power of their conclusions.

However, this study (Aune et al, International Journal of Epidemiology, DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyw319 ) is unique.

  • It is the largest and most comprehensive meta-analysis looking at the benefits of fruit & vegetable consumption ever undertaken.
  • It analyzed 142 published clinical studies with over 2.1 million subjects from around the globe.
  • There were 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 112,000 cases of cancer, and 94,000 deaths in these studies.
  • It had enough statistical power to determine even minor effects of fruit and vegetable intake.
  • It is the first meta-analysis with enough data to accurately determine the optimal intake of fruits and vegetables.

 

Premature Death:  Reduce Your Risk By 31%

reduce premature death by eating fruits and vegetablesFor most of the health outcomes examined in this study, the optimal intake of fruits and vegetables was 10 servings a day. When they compared people who were consuming 10 servings a day to people who were consuming less than one serving a day,

  • Heart disease was reduced by 28%.
  • Stroke was reduced by 33%.
  • Premature death was decreased by 31%.
  • The fruits and vegetables most strongly associated with this benefit were apples, pears, citrus fruit, green leafy vegetables, and cruciferous vegetables.

For cancer, the optimal intake of fruits and vegetables was 6 servings a day. When they compared people who were consuming 6 servings a day to people who were consuming less than one serving a day,

  • Cancer was reduced by 14%.
  • The fruits and vegetables most strongly associated with reduced cancer risk were green vegetables such as green beans, yellow vegetables such as peppers and carrots, and cruciferous vegetables.

The authors speculated that the relatively small reduction in cancer risk they observed may have been because they were looking at total cancer cases rather than looking at individual cancers. Previous studies have suggested that fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of some cancers much more than others.

Finally, the authors estimated that:

  • 6 million premature deaths/year worldwide could be prevented if people consumed 6 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and…
  • 8 million premature deaths/year worldwide could be prevented if people consumed 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

What Does This Mean For You?

When the USDA rolled out the “Food Guide Pyramid” in 1992, they recommended 2-4 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables a day. They tried educating the American public for almost a decade to no avail. Only 3% of Americans even came close to that recommendation.

In 2011 they threw in the towel and introduced “My Plate”, which recommended 5 servings (2 fruits and 3 vegetables). This is also the current recommendation of the WHO and England. “How well are we doing with this recommendation?”, you might ask.

good news bad newsThe answer is “not very well.”  The bad news is the CDC estimates that less than 13% of Americans eat 2 servings of fruit and 2-3 servings of vegetables a day. An average American eats one serving of fruit a day and less than 2 servings of vegetables a day. Clearly, we have a long way to go.

My guess is that only vegans come close to the recommended 10 servings a day, and that’s only if they skimp on beans, nuts, and grains so they can load up on fruits and vegetables.

The good news is every added serving of fruits and vegetables is beneficial. The authors of the study estimate that for every increase of 2.5 servings a day:

  • Heart disease would be reduced by 8%
  • Stroke would be reduced by 13%
  • Cancer would be reduced by 3%.
  • Premature death would be reduced by 10%

If we were to increase our intake of fruits and vegetables to even 6 servings a day:

  • Heart disease would be reduced by 16%
  • Stroke would be reduced by 22%
  • Cancer would be reduced by 13%.
  • Premature death would be reduced by 27%.

What About Supplementation?

The authors of the study stated: “Most likely it is the whole package of beneficial nutrients you obtain by eating fruits and vegetables that is crucial to health. This is why it is important to eat whole plant foods to get the benefit, instead of taking antioxidant or vitamin supplements…”

I agree in principle. It is impossible to duplicate the myriad of nutrients found in whole foods in a supplement. More importantly, we can do better. We should all work towards increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in our diet.

However,

  • When there is such a huge gap between what Americans are eating and the optimal intake of fruits and vegetables, and…
  • The USDA has tried for decades to get Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables without success, and…
  • We know many of the beneficial nutrients found in those fruits and vegetables…

Supplementation also makes sense. Choose a company that you can trust and try to fill the gap between what you need and what you are getting from your diet.  And, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables to decrease your risk of premature death.

 

The Bottom Line

 

  • A new meta-analysis that combined the data from 142 published clinical studies with over 2.1 million subjects has concluded that increasing our intake of fruits and vegetables to 10 servings a day would:
    • Reduce heart disease (primarily heart attacks) by 24%.
    • Reduce strokes by 33%.
    • Reduce cancer by 14%.
    • Reduce premature death by 31% (That would add approximately 3.4 years of disease-free years to your lifespan).
    • Result in 7.8 million fewer premature deaths/year worldwide.
  • The bad news is that:
    • The CDC estimates that less than 13% of Americans eat even 2 servings of fruit and 2-3 servings of vegetables a day.
    • The CDC also estimates that the average American eats one serving of fruit and less than 2 servings of vegetables per day.
  • My guess is that only vegans come close to the recommended 10 servings a day, and that’s only if they skimp on beans, nuts, and grains so they can load up on fruits and vegetables.
  • The good news is every added serving of fruits and vegetables is beneficial. The authors of the study estimate that for every increase of 2.5 servings a day:
    • Heart disease would be reduced by 8%
    • Stroke would be reduced by 13%
    • Cancer would be reduced by 3%.
    • Premature death would be reduced by 10%
  • We can do better. We should all work towards increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in our diet.
  • However,
    • When there is such a huge gap between what Americans are eating and the optimal intake of fruits and vegetables, and…
    • The USDA has tried for decades to get Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables without success, and…
    • We know many of the beneficial nutrients found in those fruits and vegetables…
  • Supplementation also makes sense. Choose a company that you can trust and try to fill the gap between what you need and what you are getting from your diet.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Latest Article

Omega-3 Benefits: Lower High Blood Pressure

Posted July 16, 2019 by Dr. Steve Chaney

What Does the FDA Say About Omega-3 Benefit Claims?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

 

Among omega-3 benefits is lower high blood pressure.  That claim can be made according to the FDA. 

lower high blood pressureHeart Disease is still the number 1 cause of death in this country. And, while deaths from heart disease have been declining in recent years, deaths due to high blood pressure have been increasing.  That is concerning because:

High blood pressure is a killer! It can kill you by causing heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure, kidney failure and much more.

High blood pressure is a serial killer. It doesn’t just kill a few people. It kills lots of people. The American Heart Association estimates that high blood pressure directly or indirectly caused 410,000 deaths in 2014. That is almost 1 person every second and represents a 41% increase from 2000. It’s because high blood pressure is not a rare disease.

  • 32% of Americans have high blood pressure, also called hypertension, (defined as a systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or more or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or more).
  • Another 33% of Americans have prehypertension (systolic blood pressure of 120-139 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure of 80-89 mm Hg).

That’s over 65% of Americans with abnormal blood pressure!

High blood pressure is a silent killer. That’s because it is a very insidious disease that sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Systolic blood pressure increases 0.6 mm Hg/year for most adults over 50. By age 75 or above 76-80% of American adults will have high blood pressure.  Even worse, many people with high blood pressure have no symptoms, so they don’t even know that their blood pressure is elevated. For them the first symptom of high blood pressure is often sudden death.

Blood pressure medications can harm your quality of life. Blood pressure medications save lives. However, like most drugs, blood pressure medications have a plethora of side effects – including weakness, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, heartburn, depression, heart palpitations, and even memory loss. The many side effects associated with blood pressure medications lead to poor compliance, which is probably why only 46% of patients with high blood pressure are adequately controlled.

You do have natural options. By now you are probably wondering whether there are natural approaches for controlling your blood pressure that are both effective and lack side effects. The answer is a resounding YES! I’ll outline a holistic natural approach for keeping your blood pressure under control in a minute but let me start with the FDAs recent approval of what they call “qualified claims” that omega-3s lower blood pressure.

 

What Does the FDA Say About Omega-3 Benefits?

omega-3 benefitsIn my book “Slaying The Supplement Myths” I talk about the “dark side” of the supplement industry. There are far too many companies who try to dupe the public by making outrageous and unsubstantiated claims about their products.

Only the FDA stands between us and those unscrupulous companies, and they take their role very seriously. That is why it is big news whenever the FDA allows companies to make health claims about their products.

Even then, the FDA is very cautious. They allow what they call “qualified” health claims. Basically, that means they are saying there is enough evidence that the health claim is probably true, but not enough evidence to say it is proven.

Of course, if you understand the scientific method, you realize there will always be some studies on both sides of every issue. That is why the only health claims the FDA allows are qualified health claims.

With that background in mind, let’s look at the qualified health claims the FDA allows for omega-3 benefits.

  • Since 2004 the FDA has allowed the qualified claim “Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”
  • A few weeks ago, they added five qualified health claims about omega-3s and blood pressure. The 5 claims are very similar, so I will only list two below for the sake of brevity.
  • “Consuming EPA and DHA combined may reduce blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension, a risk factor for CHD (coronary heart disease).”
  • Consuming EPA and DHA combined may reduce the risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) by lowering blood pressure.
  • Of course, they add the usual wording about the evidence being inconsistent and inconclusive.

 

Omega-3 Benefits?

measure omega-3 benefits levelWe’ve known for some time that omega-3 fatty acids help lower blood pressure, but two recent studies were instrumental in convincing the FDA to allow these qualified health claims. These studies have highlighted just how strong the effect of omega-3s on lowering blood pressure is.

The first study was a meta-analysis of 70 randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials of long chain omega-3 (EPA + DHA) supplementation and blood pressure (Miller et al, American Journal of Hypertension, 27: 885-896, 2014 ).

This study showed:

  • In the group with normal blood pressure at the beginning of the study EPA + DHA supplementation decreased systolic blood pressure by 1.25 mm Hg.
  • Given that systolic blood pressure rises an average of 0.6 mm Hg/year in adults over 50, the authors estimated that omega-3 supplementation alone would delay the onset of age-related high blood pressure by 2 years.
  • In the group with elevated blood pressure not taking medication at the beginning of the study, EPA + DHA supplementation decreased systolic blood pressure by an impressive 4.51 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 3.05 mm Hg.
  • The authors noted that this decrease in systolic blood pressure could “prevent an individual from requiring medication [with all its side effects] to control their hypertension” or decrease the amount of medication required.

However, the doses of omega-3s used in these studies ranged from 1 to over 4 grams/day (mean dose = 3.8 grams/day). That sparked a second study (Minihane et al, Journal of Nutrition, 146: 516-523, 2016) to see whether lower levels of omega-3s might be equally effective. This study was an 8-week double-blind, placebo-controlled study comparing the effects of 0.7 or 1.8 grams of EPA + DHA per day (versus an 8:2 ratio of palm and soybean oil as a placebo) on blood pressure.

This study showed:

  • In the group with normal blood pressure at the beginning of the study, EPA + DHA supplementation caused no significant decrease in blood pressure. This could be due to the smaller number of subjects or the lower doses of EPA + DHA used in this study.
  • In the group with elevated blood pressure not taking medication at the beginning of the study, EPA + DHA supplementation decreased systolic blood pressure by 5 mm Hg and, the effect was essentially identical at 0.7 grams/day and 1.8 grams/day.
  • The authors concluded “Our data suggest that increased EPA + DHA intakes of only 0.7 grams/day may be an effective strategy for blood pressure control.”

 

A Holistic Approach to Lower High Blood Pressure

holistic approach to lower high blood pressureThe FDA’s allowed claims about omega-3s are good news indeed, but that’s not the only natural approach that lowers blood pressure. You have lots of other arrows in your quiver. For example:

  • The DASH diet (A diet that has lots of fresh fruits and vegetables; includes whole grains, low fat dairy, poultry, fish, beans, nuts and oils; and is low in sugar and red meats) reduces systolic blood pressure by 5-6 mm Hg. [Low fat, low carb and Mediterranean diets also lower blood pressure, but not by as much as the DASH diet].
  • Reducing sodium by about 1,150 mg/day reduces systolic blood pressure by 3-4 mm Hg.
  • Reducing excess weight by 5% reduces systolic blood pressure by 3 points.
  • Doing at least 40 minutes of aerobic exercise 3-4 times/week reduces systolic blood pressure by 2-5 mm Hg.
  • Nitrates, whether derived from fresh fruits and vegetables or from supplements probably also reduce blood pressure, but we don’t yet know by how much.

If you’ve been keeping track, you’ve probably figured out that a holistic lifestyle that included at least 0.7 grams/day of long chain omega-3s (EPA + DHA) plus the other omega-3 benefits in the list above could reduce your systolic blood pressure by a whopping 18-22 mm Hg.  What

That’s significant because, the CDC estimates that reducing high systolic blood pressure by only 12-13 mm Hg could reduce your risk of:

  • Stroke by 37%.
  • Coronary heart disease by 21%.
  • Death from cardiovascular disease by 25%.
  • Death from all causes by 13%.

 

A Word of Caution

While holistic approaches have the potential to keep your blood pressure under control without the side effects of medications, it is important not to blindly rely on holistic approaches alone. There are also genetic and environmental risk factors involved in determining blood pressure. You could be doing everything right and still have high blood pressure. Plus, you need to remember that high blood pressure is a silent killer that often doesn’t have any detectable symptoms prior to that first heart attack or stroke.

My recommendations are:

  • Monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis.
  • If your blood pressure starts to become elevated, consult with your doctor about starting with natural approaches to bring your blood pressure back under control. Doctors are fully aware of the side effects of blood pressure medications, and most doctors are happy to encourage you to try natural approaches first.
  • Continue to monitor blood pressure as directed by your doctor. If natural approaches are insufficient to bring your blood pressure under control, they will prescribe the lowest dose of blood pressure medication possible to get your blood pressure where it needs to be.
  • Don’t stop making holistic lifestyle choices to reduce blood pressure just because you are on medication. The more you do to keep your blood pressure under control with a healthy diet and lifestyle, the less medication your doctor will need to use (That means fewer side effects).

 

The Bottom Line

Heart Disease is still the number 1 cause of death in this country. And, while deaths from heart disease have been declining in recent years, deaths due to high blood pressure have been increasing. That is why anything we can do lower blood pressure naturally is important. What does the FDA say about omega-3s and blood pressure?

  • Since 2004 the FDA has allowed the qualified claim “Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”
  • A few weeks ago, they added qualified health claims about omega-3s and blood pressure. For example, they now allow the following claims.
  • “Consuming EPA and DHA combined may reduce blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension, a risk factor for CHD (coronary heart disease).”
  • Consuming EPA and DHA combined may reduce the risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) by lowering blood pressure.

For more information on the studies that convinced the FDA to allow claims about omega-3s and blood pressure and for a discussion of holistic natural approaches for lowering blood pressure, read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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