Brexit could lead to more deaths from heart attacks and strokes due to rising prices for fruit and vegetables, research has found.

Any deal in which the UK leaves the will push up prices, cutting the amount of fresh produce people buy, the study said.

But the data indicated a no-deal Brexit will have the worst impact on the nation, with more than 12,000 deaths predicted between 2021 and 2030.

The new study, from Imperial College London and the University of Liverpool, analysed data from the World Health Organization and HM Revenue and Customs to model the impact of Brexit on health.

Each model demonstrated a different way in which the UK could leave the EU on March 29.

All of the scenarios assumed an increase in trade tariffs and transaction costs, while also looking at how much fruit and vegetables the public ate on average.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey indicates that only 27% of adults aged 19 to 64 and 35% of those over 65 get their recommended daily amount.

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Banana prices would increase by 17%, citrus fruits by 14%, and tomatoes by 15%, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the study found.

This would lead the British public to eating between 3% and 11% less fruit or vegetables.

Low fruit and vegetable intake is a ‘major risk factor’ for a whole host of illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, which can cause heart attacks and strokes.

A no-deal Brexit could lead to a 0.9% increase (4,110 deaths) in heart disease and 2.9% (8,290 deaths) in strokes between 2021 and 2030.

The least disruptive scenario was a free-trading agreement with the EU and half of non-EU fruit and veg importers, but experts reported this still led to an increase in poor health.

The UK is heavily reliant on imports, with 84% of fruits and 43% of vegetables imported in 2017.

Paraskevi Seferidi, a PhD researcher and first author of the study, said the UK’s imports have a ‘strong protective effect on health’.

The researchers said the scenarios they modelled are not exhaustive and do not reflect all Brexit scenarios currently being debated.

But they said their study is consistent with previous research which estimated that the cost of fruit and vegetables is likely to increase by about £2.20 per week for a family of four.

Professor Martin O’Flaherty from the University of Liverpool, who jointly led the study, said: ‘Unhealthy diets are a leading driver of ill-health in the UK and a critical policy lever to tackle chronic diseases.

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‘Staying within the European Union appears the best option to protect public health.’

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