By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

fruit

Eating three or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day may help keep peripheral artery disease away.

In a new study on 3.7 million people, those who reported eating three or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables had 18 percent lower odds of PAD than those reporting eating less.

“Our study provides important information to the public that something as simple as adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet could have a major impact on the prevalence of life-altering peripheral artery disease,” said Jeffrey Berger, M.D., associate professor of medicine and surgery at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.

PAD is a narrowing of the peripheral arteries to the legs, stomach, arms and head — most commonly in the legs — that limits blood flow to the muscles and makes it hard or painful to walk or stand.

Previous studies linked lower consumption of fruits and vegetables with the increased occurrence of coronary heart disease and stroke. But there’s little research on the association of eating fruits and vegetables and PAD.

In the new study, 6.3 percent of participants had PAD and 29.2 percent reported eating three or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

When stratified by smoking status, the association of lower PAD and increased fruits and vegetables was present only among participants who were current or former smokers, researchers said.

Participants completed medical and lifestyle questionnaires and ankle brachial index tests at more than 20,000 sites across America. An ankle brachial index test is a comparison of blood pressure differences between readings at the ankle and forearm.

The study findings also confirmed that Americans’ fruit and vegetable intake remains dismally low, researchers said. Low fruit and vegetable intake was particularly associated with PAD among current and former smokers.

Furthermore, older white women were most likely to eat three or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, while younger black men were the least likely, researchers said.

The research is reported in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.