Research published in the journal Nutrition, for example, followed 15 women who were directed to eat a low-fruit diet for four weeks, and then a high-fruit diet for another four weeks.* At the end of each four-week period, the scientists measured the women’s LDL “bad” cholesterol levels as well as their ability to fight oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress occurs when unstable molecules, known as free radicals, react with oxygen in the body, causing inflammation that can raise the risk of heart disease. Substances plentiful in fruits, called antioxidants, help fight the effects of oxidative stress on the body, preventing inflammation.
And sure enough, the study found that the high-fruit diet boosted the women’s antioxidant capacity. The low-fruit diet did not. The increase in antioxidant capacity was “directly proportional to fruit consumption,” wrote the scientists, from the Department of Physiology and Nutrition at the University of Navarra in Spain. In short, the more fruit the women ate, the more antioxidant defense systems they developed.
LDL levels fall
What’s more, after four weeks of the high-fruit diet, the women’s LDL bad cholesterol levels plummeted. After four weeks on the low-fruit diet, LDL levels remained the same.
The scientists concluded that a fruit-enriched diet appears “effective against oxidative stress,” and that “consumption of antioxidant substances contained in fruit could be a useful strategy in the design of diets that could increase the improvement of cardiovascular risk factors.”
In related research, also from the University of Navarra, scientists in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health studied the link between blood pressure and fruit and vegetable consumption among nearly 4,400 men and women of Spain, part of an ongoing study on lifestyle habits and heart health. The epidemiologists found that the more fruits and vegetables the men and women ate, the lower were their incidences of high blood pressure.**
“Fruit’s a fabulous food. It’s nature’s candy. It’s nature’s health-food healer. That’s why we call it miracle fruit. If you want to lose weight, eat fruit. If you want to avoid epidemic problems like heart disease and high blood pressure, eat fruit. It’s as close as we get on this planet to a miracle food,” concludes slim, trim (and mega-fruit eater) Kimberly Gomer, Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
* Nutrition, 2006; 22 (6): 539.
** British Journal of Nutrition, 2004, 92 (2): 311.