Effects of fruit and vegetable consumption on plasma antioxidant concentrations and blood pressure: A randomised controlled trial
Background: High dietary intakes of fruit and vegetables are associated with reduced risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Short-term intensive dietary interventions in selected populations increase fruit and vegetable intake, raise plasma antioxidant concentrations, and lower blood pressure, but long-term effects of interventions in the general population are not certain. We assessed the effect of an intervention to increase fruit and vegetable consumption on plasma concentrations of antioxidant vitamins, daily fruit and vegetable intake, and blood pressure. Methods: We undertook a 6-month, randomised, controlled trial of a brief negotiation method to encourage an increase in consumption of fruit and vegetables to at least five daily portions. We included 690 healthy participants aged 25-64 years recruited from a primary-care health centre. Findings: Plasma concentrations of α-carotene, β-carotene, lutein, β-cryptoxanthin, and ascorbic acid increased by more in the intervention group than in controls (significance of between-group differences ranged from p=0.032 to 0.0002). Groups did not differ for changes in lycopene, retinol, α-tocopherol, γ-tocopherol, or total cholesterol concentrations. Self-reported fruit and vegetable intake increased by a mean 1.4 (SD 1.7) portions in the intervention group and by 0.1 (1.3) portion in the control group (between-group difference=1.4, 95% CI 1.2-1.6; p<0.0001). Systolic blood pressure fell more in the intervention group than in controls (difference=4.0 mm Hg, 2.0-6.0; p<0.0001), as did diastolic blood pressure (1.5 mm Hg, 0.2-2.7; p=0.02). Interpretation: The effects of the intervention on fruit and vegetable consumption, plasma antioxidants, and blood pressure would be expected to reduce cardiovascular disease in the general population.