Five-a-day mantra defended after modest results in cancer prevention study

The Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) and the NFU have leapt to the defence of the "five-a-day" mantra following the widespread media interest earlier this month in a study on cancer prevention.

The study, led by Paolo Boffetta from the Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, showed that eating an increased amount of fruit and vegetables only resulted in a modest reduction in the risk of developing the disease.

The intake of Fruit and vegetables was compared with cancer data covering nine years up to 2000 for the research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The results showed that eating an extra 200g of fruit and vegetables a day reduced the overall risk of cancer by three per cent. But both organisation have emphasized that there are still significant benefits to eating five a day.

NFU Horticulture & Potatoes Board chairman Sarah Pettitt said: "The new study still shows that eating five a day can reduce the risk of cancer by 2.5 per cent, which works out as around 7,000 cases a year in the UK alone.

"Couple this with the benefits fruit and vegetables bring in terms of eating a healthy balanced diet and helping combat obesity by replacing more calorific food and the significant benefits still seem very clear to me.

"It is a real shame that the British media can't be more intelligent and restrain themselves from putting the boot in and muddying the waters for consumers when the public health benefits are still significant and clear."

The FPC said in a statement: "The US researchers make it clear that there is a definite need to encourage the five-a-day habit to achieve a healthy diet and stress that there is strong evidence that it reduces the risk of heart disease.

"The UK diet still lags behind the target of five a day, with most consumers only eating 2.5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day. There are significant benefits to be made in terms of encouraging people to enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables and helping them to achieve a healthier diet."

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