Fruits and Vegetables- Getting Closer to Know, Why are They Good for You?

Fruits and Vegetables-  
Getting Closer to Know, Why are They Good for You?
For a very long time, we have known that groups of people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables live significantly longer than groups that do not.

How much longer?  About seven years longer.   That is, one group's average life is 7 years longer than the other group's average.  That is a very dramatic difference.

Science has begun to uncover just what is it in fruits and vegetables that endows us with longer life.  And it isn't what you think.

For many, the answer has always been all those good things in fruits and vegetables, like vitamins and anti-oxidants.  Enough people were convinced of this explanation, that almost everyone is convinced that if you just take a load of vitamins and minerals, you can get all the extra life and health fruits and vegetables offer, without worrying if you eat enough fruits and vegetables.

That is essentially why half of all Americans take a vitamin pill every day.  Well, it doesn't work, at all.  In fact, groups that take vitamin pills often don't live as long as those who do not, in study after study.

So what about anti-oxidants?  The idea that the magic power of fruits and vegetables lies in blocking oxidation is still crazy popular, but again, groups that take anti-oxidant pills live no longer than people who do not.  

Taking vitamins, minerals, and/or anti-oxidants does nothing that eating fruits and vegetables does for you.

The first clues about what is it in fruits and vegetables that actually provides benefits was outlined in an article this spring in Scientific American.   The authors have spent many years finding out what this mystery set of chemicals is, and the answer is a big surprise.  One protective set of chemicals found in fruits and vegetables are actually plant toxins.   That's right, it's not the nutrients or things that are good for you that make people healthier who eat fruits and vegetables, it's the poisons in the plant!

It turns out that most plants make toxins to protect themselves from insects.  They do not need to kill the insect, just discourage it from eating it.  This strategy saves plants from having to produce high concentrations of complex toxins, just a bit will do.   How does a toxin make us healthy?  It appears that some of such plant toxins activate processes in our bodies, and our immune systems, that strengthen our defenses, in particular against damage from oxidation and inflammation.   Of course, too much of such a toxin could damage our tissues, but a bit seems to make them sit up and protect themselves, rendering less susceptible to harm over time.

At this point it should come as no surprise that for people, the amount of such toxins in fruits and vegetables is just the right amount to provoke protective actions by our tissues and not enough to cause any harm.

In a cruel twist of fate, it appears that the reason taking vitamins and anti-oxidants not only fails to help, but may hurt, is that when you take these compounds the body's tissue's sense the need to protect themselves is diminished and so the guard is let down, to the body's detriment.

All parents should note, the protection offered by eating fruits and vegetables is the same in fruits and in vegetables.  Kids who eat lots of fruits and no vegetables do just as well as those who eat only vegetables.

Eating fruits and vegetables are not the only action that acts by provoking protection.  It appears two other actions excite the same mechanisms:  exercise and intermittent fasting.  Exercise is an irritant on the system that provokes protective mechanisms being turned on.  And, strangely, so does fasting very other day!

1.   There is no doubt, eating fruits and vegetables can prolong your life.   We know this happens at a level of 2 ounces of fruits OR vegetables about 5 times a day.
2.    Fruits and vegetables  DO NOT offer this good health via their vitamins, minerals, or any other such helpful nutrient.
3.    Fruits and vegetables help us live longer through small amounts of plant toxins that provoke our cells to protect themselves.
4.    Exercise and intermittent fasting provide the same health benefit via the same mechanism.
5.    So, throw away your vitamin and mineral supplements, and get some great summer fruits, they will help you live longer, the pills will not.  And enjoy a good walk, and feel free to skip a meal every now and then.

To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin  

*Disclaimer* The comments contained in this electronic source of information do not constitute and are not designed to imply that they constitute any form of individual medical advice. The information provided is purely for informational purposes only and not relevant to any person's particular medical condition or situation. If you have any medical concerns about yourself or your family please contact your physician immediately. In order to provide our patients the best uninfluenced information that science has to offer,we do not accept samples of drugs, advertising tchotchkes, money, food, or any item from outside vendors.

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