A new study suggests that eating fruit could save your life. The study, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, reported that eating two or more servings of fruit a day substantially reduced the risk of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA), a potentially deadly health condition.
Aortic aneurysms occur when the aorta, the large blood vessel that delivers blood from the heart to the rest of the body, dilates. As the wall of the aorta stretches and weakens, it can potentially burst, spilling massive amounts of blood. Rupture is highly lethal, killing 70% of people who do not undergo surgery quickly enough to stem the blood loss. Even 35% of people with ruptured AAAs who make it to the operating table die.
Frighteningly, these aneurysms are usually asymptomatic until they rupture. Unruptured AAAs may feel like a pulsing mass in the abdomen, and can occasionally cause back or abdominal pain or nausea. This dangerous condition occurs in up to 4.5% of men and up to 1.3% of women over the age of 65.
The new study is one of the first to look at the effect of diet on AAA risk. Researchers followed more than 80,000 people between the ages of 46 and 84 over the course of 13 years, and tracked how often people consumed fruits and vegetables. They found that people who had at least two servings of fruit a day had a 25% reduced risk of AAA compared to people who ate less than a serving a day, and a 31% reduced risk compared to people who ate no fruit.
Even more impressively, the risk of having a ruptured AAA was 43% lower for people who ate at least two servings of fruit. The most common fruits consumed in the study were apples and pears, followed by bananas, oranges and other citrus fruits.
Researchers suggest that fruit’s antioxidant powers may be responsible for reducing AAA risk. By inhibiting oxidative stress, these antioxidants may reduce inflammation involved in aneurysm development.
To the researchers’ surprise, the study found no evidence that eating vegetables has an effect on AAA risk. The researchers suggested that perhaps the different types of antioxidants found in vegetables are not as effective at decreasing oxidative damage to the aorta.