A new European study confirms what your mother has been telling you for years: eat your veggies and fruits! Specifically, researchers found that eating more than 569 grams (about 20.1 oz. and considered to be six to seven servings) of fruits and vegetables each day may reduce the risk of mortality by 10 percent and may delay mortality by 1.12 years.

Best of all, people with vices benefitted the most by increasing their intake of mom’s medicine. The effect from eating more fruits and vegetables appeared to be greater among those participants who drank alcohol (about 30 to 40 percent risk reduction), those who were obese (20 percent), and “possibly” those who smoked.

“As such, these population groups in particular could benefit from the positive effects of fruit and vegetables in preventing chronic diseases and their associated mortality risk,” María José Sánchez Pérez, director of the Andalusian School of Public Health’s Granada Cancer Registry, told Information and Scientific News Service (SINC).

How the Study Worked

The research was conducted as part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), which is supported by Europe Against Cancer European Commission as well as by local funding. A study of diet and health, EPIC investigates how diet, nutrition, lifestyle, and environmental factors are related to the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases. EPIC has recruited over half a million people from 10 European countries: Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

The study was initiated in 1992, when participants, 20 years and older, began to be recruited from the general population. Researchers collected detailed information by questionnaire, anthropometric measurements, and blood samples, which are stored in liquid nitrogen for future analyses. Participants were followed until 2010 and, for this particular study, the researchers collected and analyzed data connected with 25,682 participants who died (10,438 due to cancer and 5,125 due to cardiovascular disease) during the course of the study.

The researchers arrived at the optimal portion of more than six to seven portions of fruits and vegetables per day when they compared the numbers to participants eating less than 249 grams each day (8.8 oz. and considered to be two to three servings). Not only did they verify that eating more fruits and vegetables reduces mortality risk, but the researchers also discovered the effects were stronger when participants favored raw vegetables as opposed to cooked. As reported in SINC, the researchers found the risk reduction attained by eating fruits and vegetables to be more significant in the case of deaths from cardiovascular disease.

“These results support the evidence that fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with a lower risk of death,” the authors wrote.

Source: Leenders M, Sluijs I, Ros MM, et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality: European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2013.