erformers might easily overlook the importance of a daily intake of fruit and vegetables, especially when other dietary considerations such as energy, protein and fluid intake can take precedence. A novel new study by scientists working in the Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research at the University of Reading provides further evidence for the health benefits of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, not only through the provision of essential micronutrients, but also the potential to improve the functioning of the body’s vascular system, which is responsible for the distribution of blood around the body.
The daily consumption of fruit/vegetable purée-based drinks significantly increased dietary intake of vitamin C and carotenoids and increased plasma levels of alpha and beta-carotene. Although the consumption of fruit/vegetable purée-based drinks did not affect measures of oxidative stress or antioxidant status there was a trend (which was almost statistically significant) for an increased dilation of the blood vessels (suggesting an improvement in vascular function).
Thirty-nine healthy adults took part in this nutrition intervention study. They were randomly allocated to one of two groups and were first required to consume two bottles (2 x 100 ml) of fruit/vegetable purée-based drink or a fruit flavoured control, daily for 6 weeks. Each bottle of the fruit/vegetable purée-based drink contained 200g of fruit and vegetables. The first bottle contained apple (56%), carrot (29%) and strawberry (8%) and the second bottle contained orange (30%), banana (28%), carrot (23%) and pumpkin (14%). The control drink was Robinson’s fruit squash, in either orange or lemon flavour.
After the initial 6-week period, volunteers completed an 8-week wash out period (consuming no drinks) and then consumed the other treatment drink (fruit/vegetable purée or control) for another 6 weeks. Blood and urine samples were collected at the beginning and end of each treatment arm and analysed for various metabolites. Vascular function was also assessed in 19 of the volunteers using laser Doppler imaging technology.
Take home message
We often hear that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is important for athletes and non-athletes alike. This is most often attributed to micronutrient (and phytochemical) content for cell repair and fibre for intestinal functional. This study highlights that fruit and vegetables may also support the functioning of the vascular system. Performers should aim to consume at least 400 grams of fruit or vegetables (excluding potatoes) each day. Fruit/vegetable smoothies, such the ones used in this study, are a great practical solution to increase dietary intake – These can be easily made at home!
As well as increased fruit and vegetable intakes, there is also considerable interest in nutritional strategies, such as the consumption of cocoa and omega-3, which may improve the functioning of the vascular system and ultimately help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as arteriosclerosis (hardening of the blood vessels), atherosclerosis (accumulation of fatty deposits in the blood vessels) and hypertension (high blood pressure).
Reference & study link
George TW, Paterson E, Waroonphan S, Gordon MH, Lovegrove JA (2012) Effects of chronic consumption of fruit and vegetable puree-based drinks on vasodilation, plasma oxidative stability and antioxidant status. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 25, 477 – 487