Blood pressure fears as food shortage link established

In the wake of fears over the supply of food to UK supermarkets, scientists have said the world needs to significantly increase its fruit and vegetable productivity to stave off a rising high blood pressure crisis.

While it has long been recognised that low fruit and vegetable consumption is a major, modifiable, risk factor associated with raised blood pressure, how the national supply of fruit and vegetables has impacted blood pressure trends is little-known.

Dr James Bentham, senior lecturer in Statistics at the University of Kent, and his colleague Dr Linda Oude Griep at the University of Cambridge, analysed supply trends from 1975 to 2015 and examined whether they met the WHO recommendations of 400g a day.

The researchers examined associations with systolic, diastolic, and raised blood pressure, using data on fruit and vegetable supply and blood pressure across 159 countries. The results clearly indicated that increased availability of fruit and vegetables resulted in lower levels of raised blood pressure, nationally.

Their findings have also highlighted that many countries, nearly half of those studied within the research, do not have access to enough fruits and vegetables, and this a particular problem in low-income countries.

“Lower income countries that have a reduced availability of fruit and veg, are therefore at risk of higher levels of raised blood pressure,” Bentham said.”

“In the UK we are currently experiencing fruit and vegetable rationing – and whilst this happens occasionally in this country, limited fruit and vegetable supply because of a lack of logistics is a permanent issue in a lot of parts of the world.”

“Our results underpin the urgent need for national and international policies to expand fruit and vegetable productivity, in order to ensure sustainable fruit and vegetable supply, especially in low-income countries.

“This, combined with public health programmes targeting fruit and vegetable consumption at the recommended level, are essential to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases at national and global levels.”

Bentham’s latest research into food supply limitations echoes results from an earlier study which characterised changing food supplies – with the aim of informing food policies that would ensure national food security, support access to healthy diets and enhance environmental sustainability.