"Five a day" not ambitious enough, unique study of fruit & veg consumption shows

Eating seven or more portions of fruit a day can significantly reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease compared with the government's recommended five, University College London researchers have claimed.

Fresh produce - image:Martin Cathrae
Fresh produce - image:Martin Cathrae

They studied the eating habits of over 65,000 people in England between 2001 and 2013, and found that the more fruit and vegetables they ate, the less likely they were to die at a given age.

The research also showed that vegetables and salads have significantly higher health benefits than fruit.

This is the first study to link fruit and vegetable consumption with all-cause, cancer and heart disease deaths in a nationally-representative population, the first to quantify health benefits per-portion, and the first to identify the types of fruit and vegetable with the most benefit, the researchers claim.

Lead author of the study Dr Oyinlola Oyebode said: "We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering."

The findings lend support to the Australian government's more ambitious "Go for 2 + 5" guidelines, which recommend eating two portions of fruit and five of vegetables a day.

Only one person in four in the UK eats the British government's recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

But Oyebode added: "People shouldn't feel daunted by a big target like seven. Whatever your starting point, it is always worth eating more fruit and vegetables. In our study even those eating one to three portions had a significantly lower risk than those eating less than one."

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