Background: Randomized controlled trials provide conflicting results on the effects of increased fruit and vegetable consumption on changes in body weight. We aimed to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies on fruit and vegetable consumption in relation to changes in anthropometric measures.
Methods: PubMed and EMBASE were searched up to July 2015 for prospective studies reporting on habitual fruit and/or vegetable consumption in relation to changes in body weight or waist circumference or to risk of weight gain/overweight/obesity in adults. Random-effects meta-analysis was applied to pool results across studies.
Findings: Seventeen cohort studies (from 20 reports) including 563,277 participants met our inclusion criteria. Higher intake of fruits was inversely associated with weight change (decrease) (beta-coefficient per 100-g increment, -13.68 g/year; 95% CI, -22.97 to -4.40). No significant changes could be observed for combined fruit and vegetable consumption or vegetable consumption. Increased intake of fruits was inversely associated with changes (decrease) in waist circumference (beta: -0.04 cm/year; 95% CI, -0.05 to -0.02). Comparing the highest combined fruit & vegetable, fruit, and vegetable intake categories were associated with a 9%, 17%, and 17% reduced risk of adiposity (odds ratio [OR]: 0.91, 95% CI, 0.84 to 0.99), (OR: 0.83, 95% CI, 0.71 to 0.99), and (OR: 0.83, 95% CI, 0.70 to 0.99), respectively.
Conclusion: This meta-analysis showed several inverse associations between fruit and vegetable intake and prospective improvements in anthropometric parameters, and risk of adiposity. The present meta-analysis seems to be limited by low study quality. Nevertheless, when combined with evolutionary nutrition and epidemiological modeling studies, these findings have public health relevance and support all initiatives to increase fruit and vegetable intake.