Complementing Conventional Medicine With Fruits And Vegetables Enhances Cardiovascular Health

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Researchers are studying a new approach called “food medicine” as a way to improve cardiovascular health by prescribing vegetables and fruits alongside traditional medications. Led by UMass Chan Medical School’s Kurt Hager, the study involves “produce prescription programs” that provide patients with electronic cards or vouchers to buy free or discounted produce at farmers’ markets and grocery stores.

Eating vegetables and fruits improves cardiovascular health

In a statement to the American Heart Association, Hager said that food insecurity has a significant impact on health through various avenues, including dietary quality, anxiety, stress, mental health, and the necessity to choose between buying food and covering essential expenses like housing, utilities, and medications.

In the ground-breaking analysis, data from nine programs in the United States were merged to create the largest study of its kind. The research encompassed 2,064 adults and 1,817 children who were at risk for Type 2 diabetes or heart disease. The participants mainly hailed from low-income areas, experiencing food insecurity or receiving care in clinics that predominantly served low-income communities.

Participants at higher risk for heart disease who joined produce prescription programs for about six months saw improvements in their diet, including increased vegetable and fruit consumption, as well as reductions in body mass index, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure.

Poor nutrition contributes to chronic diseases

Poor nutrition and nutrition insecurity contribute significantly to chronic diseases worldwide, particularly cardiometabolic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and related cardiovascular issues. Dr. Mitchell Elkind, the chief clinical science officer of the American Heart Association, highlights the potential of subsidized produce prescriptions as a means to enhance health outcomes.

Elkind highlighted the Food is Medicine Initiative, a joint program launched in September 2022 by The Rockefeller Foundation and the American Heart Association whose primary objective is encouraging medical prescriptions for healthy foods to prevent and address chronic illnesses.

In 2019, approximately 8 million deaths were linked to inadequate nutrition, as per American Heart Association data. The Association defines food insecurity as the insufficient access to affordable and nutritious food, hindering well-being and disease prevention.

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