The idea of food as medicine dates back to the ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates, and a new study adds to the evidence that a diet full of fruits and vegetables can help improve heart health. The research comes amid an epidemic of diet-related disease, which competes with smoking as a leading cause of death.
Researchers evaluated the impact of “produce prescriptions,” which provide free fruits and vegetables to people with diet related diseases including diabetes, obesity and hypertension. The study included nearly 4,000 people in 12 states who struggle to afford healthy food. They received vouchers, averaging $63 a month, for up to 10 months, which could be redeemed for produce at retail stores or farmers markets, depending on the location.
Health care providers tracked changes in weight, blood pressure and blood sugar among the participants. “We were excited to see improvements,” says study author Kurt Hager, an instructor at UMass Chan Medical School.
“Among adults with hypertension, we saw that systolic blood pressure decreased by 8 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure decreased by about 5 mm Hg, which could have a meaningful impact on health outcomes,” Hager says.
Among people with uncontrolled diabetes, their A1C levels, which is a 2-3 month average of their blood sugar, also declined significantly, by about .6 percent. “The reductions we saw in blood sugar were roughly half of that of commonly prescribed medications, which is really encouraging for just a simple