Fruits and Vegetables: Chronic Disease Fighters



Fruits and Vegetables: Chronic Disease Fighters

The information source for this fact sheet is the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report; the official Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released in early January 2005. Quotes from the report are noted in italics below.


Together, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and stroke account for more than 75% of all deaths in the U.S. The latest scientific evidence provides even greater support for the role fruits and vegetables play in helping to protect against all of these diseases.

Adults who increase their fruit and vegetable consumption to meet recommended nutrient intakes will also be consuming amounts of fruits and vegetables that are associated with a decreased risk of such chronic diseases such as stroke, perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancer in certain sites.

Cardiovascular Disease

Fruits and vegetables are linked to a reduction in cardiovascular disease in a variety of ways:

  1. First, they provide nutrients, such as fiber, folate, potassium, and carotenoids and other phytochemicals that may directly reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
  2. Second, certain nutrients may directly improve established, diet-related cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes.
  3. Third, the consumption of fruits and vegetables may lead to a reduced intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.

Type 2 Diabetes


The role of fruits and vegetables in prevention of type 2 diabetes tends to be associated with the fiber found in fruits and vegetables. Dietary fiber helps slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, helping keep blood sugar levels normal.

 "Current recommendations from the American Diabetes Association and the World Health Organization for the prevention of type 2 diabetes encourage the consumption of carbohydrate-containing foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk."Grains

Certain Cancers

Greater consumption of fruits and vegetables is linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers (oral, pharynx, larynx, lung, esophagus, stomach, colon, and rectum).

"The World Health Organization International Agency for Cancer Research has estimated that low fruit and vegetable intake contributes to 5 to 12 percent of all cancers and up to 20 to 30 percent of upper gastrointestinal cancers that may be otherwise preventable."

  • Phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables possess anti-cancer properties that reduce DNA damage and help repair DNA, thus reducing mutations that lead to cancer. These phytochemicals include carotenoids, vitamin C, flavanoids, minerals, and other bioactive compounds.
  • Fruits and vegetables provide fiber, which helps move food and carcinogens through the intestines faster, reducing the amount of time they have to damage cells and contribute to cancer.



Indiana State Department of Health
2 N Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Email: Public Affairs