Eating Fruit, Vegetables

Linked to Heart Health

A multiyear study of more than 100,000 people has added to the evidence that eating lots of fruit and vegetables is good for the heart.

But the analysis failed to show similar benefits for cancer, a result that prompted the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which published the study yesterday, to raise questions about the findings.

The report supports the American Heart Association's recommendations to consume at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, said the researchers, led by Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health. But for cancer, the report said, "the protective effect of fruit and vegetable intake may have been overstated."

The research team studied 71,910 women in the Nurses' Health Study and 37,725 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The research began in the mid-1980s, and the report followed the participants until 1998.

They found participants who ate five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily had a slightly decreased risk of heart disease, but there was no statistically significant difference in cancer rates.

Patient Deaths Decline

In Cancer Drug Studies

Patient deaths from experimental cancer drugs during initial human studies declined dramatically from 1991 to 2002, suggesting that better oversight and less-toxic medicines have made cancer research safer, a study found.

There were 35 drug-related deaths in the 213 studies examined, but such deaths were much more frequent in the earlier experiments than more recent ones. Deaths from other causes, including cancer, decreased, too -- from 39 to 17 in more recent studies.

The studies involved a total of 6,474 patients; the overall death rate fell from 3 percent to 1 percent. The report by a team led by Thomas Roberts Jr. of Massachusetts General Hospital appears in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

The studies involved were Phase I trials -- the first time experimental drugs are tested in humans. These small studies test the safety and dose of an experimental treatment.

Yearly Flu Shots Greatly

Reduce Deaths of Elderly

Yearly flu shots significantly reduce deaths from all causes in people 65 and older, Dutch researchers found in a study that underscores the seriousness of this year's U.S. vaccine shortage. Of the 36,000 Americans who die of flu-related causes each year, most are elderly.

Yearly flu shots have been recommended for people 65 and older since the 1960s and for those 50 and older since 2000. New vaccine is made each year to target the specific strain that circulates each season, so people are advised to get annual shots. Still, there has been little evidence about the effectiveness of repeat vaccinations.

A.C.G. Voordouw at Erasmus University in Rotterdam and colleagues analyzed the effectiveness of the Netherlands' vaccine program using data on 26,071 residents 65 and older from 1996 through 2002.

Compared with unvaccinated people, those who had any flu shots were 22 percent less likely to die of any cause during the period studied, they reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

-- From News Services