Eating fruit and vegetables could stop you having a heart attack – but only if you are a woman.

Young females who eat a healthy diet are less likely to develop clogged arteries from a build up of plaque, which can lead to heart attacks or stroke, compared with those who eat a less balanced diet.

However the same benefit does not apply to men – and scientists don’t know why, saying the phenomenon ‘warrants further investigation’.

The study, comprised of more than 2,500 people in the U.S, reinforces the importance of developing healthy eating habits early in life.

Previous research was able to find that middle aged adults who eat a lot of fruit and vegetables are less likely to have heart attacks or strokes, but the effect on young adults is less clear.

Women in their 20s who said they ate between eight and nine servings of fruit and vegetables a day as part of a 2,000 calorie diet were 40 per cent less likely to develop a build up in their arteries called ‘plaque’, or coronary artery calcification.

This was when compared with those in their 40s who ate only three or four servings a day, whose chance of developing the build up was much higher.

This trend carried on even after other lifestyle behaviours like smoking, exercise and sugary drink consumption were accounted for.

The study also took into consideration current eating habits, further demonstrating how dietary patterns affect younger people as well.

Dr Michael Miedema, of the Minneapolis Heart Institute, said: ‘Several other studies have also suggested a diet high in fruits and vegetables is less protective in men, but we do not have a good biological reason for this lack of association.

‘It is an important question because lifestyle behaviours, such as a heart healthy diet, are the foundation of cardiovascular prevention and we need to know what dietary components are most important.’

source: Dailymail UK