Prescribing fruits and vegetables by prescription appears to be an effective approach to significantly improve heart health in at-risk individuals. Among other things, positive effects on blood pressure, body mass index and blood sugar levels can be expected.
In a recent study, researchers from Tufts University (USA) examined the heart health effects of prescribing free fruits and vegetables on prescription. The results are published in the journal Circulation Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
prescription of fruits and vegetables
Diet has a significant impact on our health, with many health benefits attributed to a high proportion of fruit and vegetables. In order to ensure an adequate intake of fruit and vegetables, various programs have been established in the USA that allow free dispensing on prescription.
The patients receive electronic cards or vouchers with which they can buy fruit and vegetables of their choice free of charge or at a reduced price in grocery stores or at farmers’ markets, explained study author Dr. Kurt Hager.
Effect on heart health studied
The researchers have now examined the effect of these programs on heart health using data from 3,881 people (2,064 adults over the age of 18 and 1,817 children between the ages of 2 and 17) with poor cardiometabolic health.
On average, participants received $63 per month to purchase groceries from the programs. Participation in nutrition training was also financed.
At the beginning and at the end of the program – which lasted between four and ten months – participants completed questionnaires on fruit and vegetable consumption, possible deficiencies in the availability, access, affordability and consumption of healthy food, and their health status .
Routine tests of blood pressure, weight and height, and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) (a measure of blood sugar levels) were performed at the beginning and end of the program.
The researchers found that adults who participated in the fruit and vegetable prescription programs for an average of six months consumed significantly more fruit and vegetables and experienced reductions in blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and of blood sugar levels reached.
Systolic blood pressure fell by more than 8 mm Hg, while diastolic blood pressure fell by almost 5 mm Hg in the adults who had high blood pressure at study entry, the team reports.
HbA1C decreased by 0.29 to 0.58 percentage points in adults with diabetes and BMI improved by 0.52 kg/m2 in adults with obesity.
Although the children did not show any correspondingly significant changes in blood pressure, BMI and blood sugar, they also benefited from the programs.
Adults and children rated their own health significantly better after participating in the program and their uncertainties about the availability, access, affordability and consumption of healthy food decreased.
“We know that such food insecurity affects health through multiple pathways, including through diet quality, but also through stress and anxiety, psychological distress, and trade-offs between paying for food and other basic needs such as housing, utilities, and medicines.” , adds Dr. gaunt.
Overall, the study highlights the potential of prescribing fruit and vegetables to improve heart health, and the results strongly support the use of this tool in treatment. (fp)