Eating at least three apples a day or other sources of dietary fiber such as cereals significantly cuts the risk of death from heart disease, researchers said on Monday.
Pooling the results of 10 U.S. and European studies with more than 330,000 adult subjects, the report said people who consumed 10 grams of fiber daily reduced their risk of heart attack by 14 percent and cut their risk of dying from coronary heart disease by 27 percent.
A medium-sized apple contains roughly 3 grams of fiber, while a slice of whole wheat bread contains 1.5 grams and a stalk of broccoli about 2.7 grams of fiber.
“The recommendations to consume a diet that includes an abundance of fiber-rich foods to prevent (coronary heart disease) are based on a wealth of consistent scientific evidence,” wrote study author Mark Pereira, formerly of Harvard University in Boston, and now at the University of Minnesota.
The report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine said 5,249 of the subjects developed heart disease and 2,011 died from the disease during the six to 10 years of follow-up.
The health benefit was strongest when the dietary fiber came from cereals and fruit, rather than vegetables. The reason may be because common starchy and heavily processed vegetables such as corn and peas are poor in nutrients but high in sugars that can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
Fiber in the diet has been found to lower blood pressure, cut blood levels of artery-clogging lipids and improve insulin sensitivity.