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Patients Prescribed Free Fruit And Veggies Much Healthier In 6 Months

“These results indicate produce prescriptions may lay an important foundation for improved health and well-being.

American researchers found that adults at risk of heart disease who received prescriptions for free produce ate more fruits and vegetables and had lower blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index (BMI).

Produce prescription programs in the U.S. allow doctors to prescribe fruit and veg in addition to medications.

Patients receive electronic cards or vouchers to access free or discounted produce of their choice at retail grocery or farmers’ markets.

The new research, published in the journal Circulation, is believed to be the largest produce prescription study by pooling data from nine programs across the United States to assess health outcomes after six months.

“These results indicate produce prescriptions may lay an important foundation for improved health and well-being.”

Study participants received a median of U.S. $63 (£50) per month to buy fresh produce at local stores and farmers markets. They also attended nutrition classes.

At the beginning and after completing the program, which ranged from four to 10 months, participants completed questionnaires about fruit and veg consumption, food insecurity and health status.

Routine testing of blood pressure, weight and height; and blood sugar was completed at enrollment and at the conclusion of the program

More than 1,800 children and over 2,000 adults enrolled in one of nine produce prescription programs operated by the non-profit organization Wholesome Wave, from 2014 to 2020.

Patients prescribed free fruit and veg by their doctor were much healthier six months later, reveals a new study. PHOTO BY JANE DOAN/PEXELS

All the participants had or were at risk for developing heart disease or Type 2 diabetes and either had food-insecurity or were enrolled at a clinic serving a predominantly low-income neighborhood.

The average age of adult participants was 54, while children in the study were an average age of 9-years-old.

Adults reported that their intake of fruits and vegetables increased by nearly one cup per day while children taking part increased their consumption by just over a quarter of a cup per day.

Systolic blood pressure decreased more than eight millimeters while diastolic blood pressure decreased nearly five mm Hg among adults who had high blood pressure at the start of the study.

Blood sugar decreased by 0.29 to 0.58 percentage points among adults with diabetes.

BMI significantly improved, with a reduction of 0.52 kilos per square meter (kg/m2) among adults with obesity. Among children, however, BMI did not change.

Adults were 62 percent more likely and children were more than twice as likely to report better health status by completion of the program.

Overall, participants were a third less likely to report food insecurity after completing the program compared to at the start.

He added: “Future research will need to include randomized controlled trials to offset any potential bias and prove more rigorously the benefits of produce prescription programs.

“The American Heart Association’s new Food Is Medicine Initiative will be focused on supporting such trials.”


Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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