Mon, 10 Apr, 2017Danielle McCarthy

Why 5 servings of fruit and vegetables aren’t enough anymore

Why 5 servings of fruit and vegetables aren’t enough anymore

A major UK-based study has found eating 10 helpings of fruit and vegetables a day is better than the minimum recommended five.

Researchers from Imperial College in London said they looked at "all" available research worldwide. Their meta-analysis included up to 2 million people, and assessed up to 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 81,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, 112,000 cancer cases and 94,000 deaths.

The team estimated about 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide could be potentially prevented every year if people ate 10 portions, or 800 grams, of fruit and vegetables a day.

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health recommends adults eat at least three servings of vegetables and two of fruit each day. 

The Imperial College study found even 2 to 2.5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day helped, with benefits increasing along with the number of portions.

Eating 10 portions a day – compared to eating none – was associated with:

  • a 24 per cent reduced risk of heart disease
  • a 33 per cent reduced risk of stroke
  • a 28 per cent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • a 13 per cent reduced risk of total cancer
  • and a 31 per cent reduction in dying prematurely

The researchers said the following fruits and vegetables may help prevent heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and early death: apples and pears, citrus fruits, salads and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and chicory, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.

Foods that may reduce cancer risk included: Green vegetables, such as spinach or green beans, yellow vegetables, such as peppers and carrots, and cruciferous vegetables.

Raw or cooked vegetables had similar effects in preventing early death but more studies were needed on specific types of fruit and vegetables and preparation methods, Imperial College said.

"Fruit and vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and to boost the health of our blood vessels and immune system," lead author Dr Dagfinn Aune said.

"This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold. For instance they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage, and lead to a reduction in cancer risk."

The vast array of beneficial compounds cannot be easily replicated in a pill, said Aune.

"Most likely it is the whole package of beneficial nutrients you obtain by eating fruits and vegetables that is crucial is health.

"This is why it is important to eat whole plant foods to get the benefit, instead of taking antioxidant or vitamin supplements."

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