Good Heart Habits Start Young

Yuganov Konstantin via

Many of us can recall pushing away broccoli, carrots, peas as kids. In a world where Sugar Frosted Chocolate Bombs exist (well, they should) what kid wants to eat broccoli?

Yet good parents know that a lot of appealing tastes are acquired (thank you, Scotch, for being persistent) so they make their kids partake of lots of different fruits and vegetables. Then eventually the children find they like them.

At least that is a common story for heart-healthy adults. For that reason, many parents are instructed by pediatricians to offer a child a new food such as peas or carrots for at least four consecutive days to allow the taste buds to adjust to the new flavor. This brings interesting results. It is very common for young children to accept new fruits, when first introduced, and to refuse vegetables, but stay the course, parents. New research shows that it s actually quite beneficial if you start eating your veggies and fruits earlier in life.

Dr. Michael D. Miedema, senior consulting cardiologist and clinical investigator, and fellow researchers from the Minneapolis Heart Institute wanted to examine how a person s diet in childhood would affect one s life in adulthood. They examined 2,506 men and women aged 18 years to 30 years who consumed a 2,000-calorie diet, daily, over a two-decade interval. Once their diets were recorded, they were then separated into three groups. The first group comprised of women who ate nearly nine servings of fruits and veggies a day. The second group included men who averaged more than seven servings. For the third group, women consumed the least amount of veggies, and only ate 3.3 servings a day; while men ate 2.6 servings a day. The second group was described as assuming the median position of average fruit and veggie consumers.

Towards the end of the study, researchers asked participants to undergo a CT scan to check for coronary calcium, which would indicate how much plaque was built up on the walls of the arteries in their heart. This is a valuable gauge in observing if an individual is at risk for a heart attack. Those eating seven to nine servings of fruit and vegetables a day, on average, were 25 percent less likely to have significant coronary calcium in their arteries, as compared to those who only ate two to four servings a day.

It turns out that the two groups who ate more fruits and vegetables are also making an attempt to keep up with healthier diets, such as adding more fish and healthy oils from nuts. But even after the researchers noted the factors that can have an affect on calcium in the arteries, they wonder if any of the volunteers were physically active, smoked or if they have high blood pressure or elevated blood sugar.

Regardless of these possibilities the effect still remained significant.

Additional studies that track the changes in the rate of levels of coronary calcium plaques with age will be need to make a connection between fruit and vegetable intake and the onset of heart disease later in life. But stay strong when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Your kids will thank you some day.