Food as a medicine. Prescriptions for fresh fruit and vegetables help improve health

05 September 2023

A study showed that ‘prescriptions’ of free fresh fruits and vegetables given to people with diet-related diseases help them improve their health conditions, NPR reports.

The study involved over 4,000 people in the United States who struggled to afford healthy food. They received vouchers, averaging $63 a month, for up to 10 months, which could be redeemed for produce at retail stores or farmers markets, depending on the location.

The results were very positive. Health care providers tracked changes in weight, blood pressure and blood sugar among the participants. In people with hypertension, systolic blood pressure decreased by 8 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure decreased by about 5 mm Hg, while patients with uncontrolled diabetes saw their average blod sugar levels drop by 6%.

Increasingly, research shows a very strong link between health and nutrition, particularly for what are termed non-communicable diseases, or NCDs, which include heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease. Various studies show that a diet low in sugar, sodium and saturated fat, and rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts and fibre, helps prevent these diseases.