Health & wellness

Daily Dose

Study shows no benefit to more than five servings of produce

The U.S. government recommends that American adults eat 5 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables depending on your age, gender, and activity level, but a new Harvard School of Public Health study suggests we don’t get additional health benefits if we eat more than five servings a day.

After analyzing 16 studies involving 833,000 participants who filled out dietary surveys, the researchers from Harvard and China discovered that each daily serving of produce was associated with a five percent lower risk of dying from heart disease or cancer during the studies, which lasted up to 25 years. Eating five servings a day, for example, lowered the risk of dying by 25 percent — but so did eating six or seven servings, according to the results published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal.

“The reduction in mortality plateaued at five [servings] a day, and five a day is a good target to achieve maximum health benefits in reducing mortality,” said study coauthor Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, via email from China.

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Is there any harm to over-indulging on the kale, celery, and sliced strawberries?

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Likely not, since the research didn’t find any negative health effects in those who ate six or more servings a day, according to Hu. What’s more, it couldn’t prove that eating five servings of produce a day actually prevented deaths, but rather found it was statistically associated with a lower mortality risk.

Still, it’s a smart move to “diversify plant-based foods,” Hu said, adding nuts, legumes, and whole grains to those salads. That will ensure that you get a wider range of nutrients, which often interact in the body to have a synergistic effect on disease prevention.

Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.