Eating vegetables may not be a sure way to prevent heart disease, a new study has found.
The findings, from researchers at the University of Oxford, challenge previous research which suggests a higher vegetable intake could be linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
CVD can be fatal, and can lead to a stroke or a heart attack. The NHS says it’s one of the main causes of death in the UK but can be “largely prevented” by a healthy lifestyle.
Researchers from the new study, which was published in the Frontiers in Nutrition journal, say that prior research may not have taken into account other lifestyle factors like meat intake, drinking alcohol and smoking, or socioeconomic factors like wealth, income and education.
Despite the study’s claims, researchers have stressed that eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight are the most important factors when it comes to reducing your risk of CVD.
“Our large study did not find evidence for a protective effect of vegetable intake on the occurrence of CVD,” the study’s lead author, Dr Qi Feng, said.
“Instead, our analyses show that the seemingly protective effect of vegetable intake against CVD risk is very likely to be accounted for by bias from residual confounding factors, related to differences in socioeconomic situation and lifestyle.”
To aid their findings, researchers looked at data from 399,586 people enrolled in the UK Biobank study. Of the nearly 400,000 samples looked at, 4.5 per cent went on to develop CVD.
An original analysis of this data found that those with the highest vegetable intake lessened their risk of dying from CVD by 15 per cent.
However, this effect was weakened when possible socioeconomic, nutritional and health factors were taken into account.
According to the scientists, future studies should further assess whether particular types of vegetables or the way they’re cooked might affect the risk of CVD.
Fellow study author Dr Ben Lacey said: “This is an important study with implications for understanding the dietary causes of CVD and the burden of CVD normally attributed to low vegetable intake.
“However, eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight remains an important part of maintaining good health and reducing risk of major diseases, including some cancers.
“It is widely recommended that at least five portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables should be eaten every day.”