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Children who Eat more Fruits and Veggies have Healthier Hearts Later on in Life

Update Date: Oct 29, 2015 04:18 PM EDT

Getting children to eat more fruits and vegetables can lead to long-term heart health benefits.

According to a new study, children and young adults who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of heart disease later on in life. Heart disease risk was assessed by the amount of calcified plaque buildup in the arteries that had developed over time.

The researchers, with lead author Dr. Michael D. Miedema, of the Minneapolis Heart Institute in Minnesota, examined data on 2,506 participants who were a part of the Coronary Artery Risk Developing in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study, which started in 1985.

At the beginning of the study, when the participants were between 18 and 30-years-old, the researchers had collected information on their diet and health histories. The researchers divided the participants into three groups based on their level of fruit and vegetable consumption. The participants were then brought in for computed tomography (CT) scans in 2005 to check for calcium buildup in the arteries.

The researchers found that people who ate an average of seven to nine servings per day were 26 percent less likely to have calcified plaque in comparison to people who ate an average of two to three servings per day. The team noted that the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and heart disease was only significant in women. However, previous studies have found health benefits from eating fruits and vegetables for both men and women.

The researchers accounted for variables, such as weight, smoking, alcohol income and education. They also noted that they only found a correlation and not causation. Despite that, the researchers recommend everyone to start eating healthier earlier on in life.

"We know there are multiple things about fruits and vegetables that are healthy," Dr. Miedema said. "You can't wait until you're 50 to establish these dietary patterns."

The study was published in Circulation.

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