People who are at risk of cardiovascular disease may benefit from a doctor’s prescription for fruits and vegetables.
According to a study that was just released in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, this is the case.
According to the study, participants who were given a “produce prescription” for six months had a decrease in their blood pressure, blood sugar, and body mass index as well as an increase in the amount of fruits and vegetables in their diet.
They know that food insecurity impacts health through several important pathways, including overall dietary quality, but also through stress and anxiety, mental health, and trade-offs between paying for food and other basic needs such as housing costs, utilities, and medications. These findings suggest that producing prescriptions could be a significant starting point for better health and well-being.
Between 2014 and 2020, the researchers looked at data from 22 produce prescription programs spread across 12 states. 3,881 people total—2,064 adults and 1,817 children—were included in the data. The participants’ cardiometabolic health was either compromised or at risk.
The participants came from low-income neighborhoods served by clinics.
Participants in the produce prescription program received an average monthly payment of $63 to spend on fruits and vegetables.
Advantages of a prescription for produce:
By the end of the program, the adults were 60% more likely, according to the researchers, to improve their health status by one level (from fair to good, for example). The likelihood of children reporting higher health status was twice as high.
Participants in the program raised their daily consumption of fruits and vegetables by about one cup. Reductions were seen in participants’ high blood pressure and blood sugar levels in those with diabetes. The body mass index of obese adults significantly improved, according to the researchers’ findings.
Participants reported a one-third lower likelihood of suffering food insecurity at the program’s conclusion.
Enhancing health results
A prescription for produce could be a useful tool to enhance health outcomes. Dietary choices have an impact on our overall health, with suboptimal diets associated with a high burden of deaths from cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This could be due to a number of factors, including food insecurity. The use of produce prescriptions enhanced the intake of fruits and vegetables in this big multisite trial. Adults and children’s blood pressure, body mass index, and diabetes indicators all improved as a result of this. The “produce prescription” could be a helpful instrument to enhance health outcomes and lessen inequalities.
It is commendable that health outcomes have improved since this indicates the multidisciplinary nature of these efforts. Although the effect of food on health outcomes is not new, it might be more difficult to achieve. In addition to highlighting the significance of food in addition to medication, the produce prescriptions may help with this.
The impact of food insecurity on health Food insecurity is the inability to afford or obtain foods that are beneficial to one’s health and well-being.
A projected 13.8 million households in the US experienced food insecurity at least once in 2020.
Over 50% of the households participating in the current study said they were food insecure.
Food insecurity has been linked, according to research, to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
A persistent challenge in cardiovascular illness is health inequities.
Heart disease health inequalities are a well-known problem, but despite this awareness, doctors have not been able to improve them for a number of years. This study is one that keeps adding data that the medical field has to change the approach to handling the problem.
Eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is advised by the American Heart Association. Nuts, seafood, and lean meats are excellent sources of protein that should be included in a well-balanced diet. Reducing the consumption of processed foods, added sugar, and salt is also crucial.
Over half a million fatalities per year are attributed to poor eating, which is the main cause of sickness in the US. That equates to about 40,000 deaths every month on average that are linked to poor diet.
According to the Memorial Care Heart and Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Centre in California, one of the main advantages of a produce prescription is that it lowers the hurdles associated with buying and preparing fresh produce.
Cooking with fruits and vegetables can be a little intimidating if you’re not used to working with them. Additionally, there is the expense factor. It might be challenging to decide between buying prepared veggies and premade items when you’re trying to decide what to buy to feed your family on a tight budget.
You can include nutritious fruits and vegetables in your diet without worrying about the possible drawbacks of the cost of the food if you have a prescription for produce. Therefore, you now possess the capacity to discover new uses for these fruits and vegetables and potentially enhance your proficiency in handling them at home.
Studies were conducted:
The unhealthiness of the average American diet is well known. Just over 10% of adult Americans consume the daily recommended amounts of veggies (two to three cups) or fruit (one and a half to two cups). Individuals in lower income categories exhibit much more pronounced nutritional deficiencies. And there are significant effects on health: Poor diets have been connected to over 300,000 heart disease and diabetes-related deaths in the US each year.
Produce prescriptions allow medical professionals to provide coupons to residents of low-income neighborhoods for free or reduced produce at supermarkets or farmers’ markets. In addition to potentially improving health conditions like high blood pressure, a recent study investigates if these programs could encourage individuals at risk for heart disease to eat more fruits and vegetables. Even if doctors, who specialize in nutrition security and the prevention of cardiometabolic diseases, doubt some of the study’s conclusions, she also points out that there are important lessons to be gained.
How was the research conducted?
The study combined information from nine distinct produce prescription programs that were offered in 22 sites throughout 12 states in the union. Enrolled were 1,800 youngsters and around 2,000 adults from low-income neighborhoods. Depending on their household size, participants might purchase food with coupons or cards valued at $15 to $300 each month. They went to nutrition classes as well.
The length of the programs ranged from four to ten months. Participants completed questionnaires regarding their intake of fruits and vegetables and their current state of health at the beginning and conclusion of each program. Food insecurity is the lack of access to enough food to meet one’s fundamental needs, and it was one of the topics covered in the surveys. For certain program participants, measurements of their height, weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar were made.
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What conclusions were drawn?
Adults consumed almost a cup more fruits and vegetables daily during the produce prescription program, while children consumed an extra quarter cup. Adults who had high blood pressure and those who had diabetes both experienced decreased blood pressure as a result of these adjustments. Additionally, the researchers found that those who were obese had decreases in their body mass index (BMI).
Excellent outcomes, all right? Okay, perhaps not. Because of the study’s limitations, including a lack of a comparison group — which is standard practice in diet studies — those potential health benefits are hard to prove. Furthermore, the researchers utilized statistical methods to explain the elevated percentages of absent data in specific programs, potentially distorting outcomes.
According to doctors, it’s difficult to see how consuming an additional serving of produce every day may reduce BMI levels in less than six months. However, there’s so much strong data that associates eating a healthy diet, particularly one that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, with a lower rate of almost every chronic disease, including heart disease, cancer, and dementia.
The final word
This study, despite its flaws, is intriguing and emphasizes the need to raise the standard of diet for all Americans, particularly for those who encounter additional obstacles as a result of their financial situation.
“I’m a huge believer in producing prescriptions,” according to doctors, “and part of my research mission is to determine the best way to design and deliver them, so people get the greatest possible health benefit.”
Additionally, the study contributes to the public’s understanding of food insecurity, which impacts roughly 10% of American households. Moreover, half of the participating homes reported experiencing food insecurity at the beginning of the study. By the end of the program, the reported rates of food insecurity among all participants were decreased by one-third from the beginning. We all need to acknowledge that many people are less healthy because they can’t get access to or afford the foods they need to prevent or treat disease. She goes on to say that another useful approach may be to “prescribe” additional healthful food types, such as whole grains and lean meats, rather than just produce.
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