Eat more fruits and vegetables for a healthy heart. Reuters

Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 20 percent, researchers from the Karolinska Institute have found.

The conclusion is based on an analysis of data of 32,561 Swedish women aged 49-83 from September 1997 through December 2007. The women were asked to consume almost seven servings of fruit and vegetables per day.

"Our study was the first to look at the effect of all dietary antioxidants in relation to myocardial infarction," said Alicja Wolk, DrMedSci, researcher at the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute. "Total antioxidant capacity measures in a single value all antioxidants present in diet and the synergistic effects between them."

The study found that women who consume more fruits and vegetables had reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by 20 percent, according to the findings published in the American Journal of Medicine.

The study also found that high doses of antioxidant supplements have failed to see any benefit on coronary heart disease and, in fact, in one study higher all-cause mortality was reported. "In contrast to supplements of single antioxidants, the dietary total antioxidant capacity reflects all present antioxidants, including thousands of compounds, all of them in doses present in our usual diet, and even takes into account their synergistic effects," said Wolk.

Americans began to consume more calories from processed food high in fat and sugar. As a result, obesity rates began to climb steadily. "Although weight-loss diets abound in the US, the few which emphasise increasing intake of fruits and vegetables actually may be on the right track," said Wolk.

"Yet only 14% of American adults and 9.5% of adolescents eat five or more servings of fruits or vegetables a day."