Doctors Conduct Experiment Offering Free Fruits and Vegetables as Prescriptions to Thousands

"Produce prescription programs show promise in improving health outcomes for individuals with diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, offering a 'food is medicine' approach with significant blood pressure reductions."


Worldsfeed Health Desk: In a groundbreaking study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, researchers have discovered that individuals dealing with diabetes, hypertension, and obesity experienced significant health improvements when they were provided with free fruits and vegetables through prescriptions from their healthcare professionals.

The results of this study hold promising potential for enhancing overall health outcomes. Notably, systolic blood pressure, which measures blood pressure during heartbeats, saw a reduction of over 8 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), while diastolic blood pressure, the measurement between heartbeats, decreased by nearly 5 mm Hg. To put this in perspective, these reductions are approximately equivalent to half the blood pressure-lowering effects achieved through medication.

Across the United States, healthcare providers have been exploring the concept of ‘food is medicine’ programs, wherein patients are supplied with nutritious food free of charge, often for an extended duration, to address various health issues.

This study represents the most extensive analysis to date of produce prescription initiatives, a particular category of ‘food is medicine’ programs. These programs empower patients with diet-related conditions to obtain free fruits and vegetables such as apples, broccoli, berries, and cucumbers. Participants, situated in locations like Los Angeles, Boise, Houston, and Minneapolis, were given the flexibility to choose their preferred produce at local grocery stores or farmers markets using electronic cards or vouchers. Typically, they received around $65 per month, with program durations ranging from four to ten months.

The study consolidated data from 22 produce prescription locations operated by Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving access to affordable, healthy food. Remarkably, none of these pilot programs had been assessed previously. The study’s 4,000 participants were either already dealing with poor cardiometabolic health or were at risk, and they were recruited from clinics serving low-income communities.

As a result of their participation in these programs, individuals consumed greater quantities of fruits and vegetables and experienced a one-third reduction in food insecurity, ensuring they had adequate sustenance to meet their basic needs and lead healthier lives.

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