Researchers from University College in London say that eating seven servings of fruits and vegetables is healthier than five, which is the current recommendation.
The new study shows that consuming more fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of premature death by forty percent. Increasing the amount of these foods cuts the chances of dying from cancer by a quarter, and cardiovascular-related deaths by one-third.
Risk of death by any cause over the course of the study was reduced by:
- 14% by eating one to three portions of fruit or vegetables per day
- 29% for three to five
- 36% for five to seven
- 42% for seven or more (up to around ten portions a day)
Although, the study shows that an increase in fruits and vegetables is beneficial to health, the British government says its “five-a-day” advice is sufficient as many people struggle to achieve even this goal. Professor Naveed Sattar, of the University of Glasgow, said promoting a seven-a-day message would be “really challenging”. “It would require governmental support such as subsidizing the cost of fruit and vegetables, perhaps by taxing sugar-rich foods, and making available high quality products to all in society,” he said.
Dr. Alison Tedstone, of Public Health England, said the study was “interesting” but it seemed “premature” to raise the recommended fruit and vegetable intake, because two thirds of people were not eating five or more portions a day. People “tend to understand this five-a-day message,” she said. “I think we should keep it simple and stay as we are. We are working very hard to improve the availability of fruit and vegetables, as we see it as absolutely integral to somebody’s health to choose those five a day,” she added.
Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, also said people were still struggling to meet the existing target of at least five a day. “While you may not be getting your five a day, there’s no reason to give up and stop trying as this study showed there were health benefits for every extra portion of fruit and veg people ate,” she said.
Experts claim that other lifestyle factors, such as not smoking or drinking excessively, also account for a drop in mortality, not just fruit and vegetable consumption. Professor Tom Sanders, at the School of Medicine, King’s College London, said it was “already known” that people who said they ate lots of fruit and vegetables were health conscious, educated, and earned a higher level of income. Researchers from University College said they took these factors into account when they formed their conclusions, but still found that increasing fruit and vegetables had a sufficient impact on overall health.
At present, only one in four Britons manages to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and just one in ten teenagers. Lead author Dr Oyinlola Oyebode, of UCL’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said the effect was “staggering.” “The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age. Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference. However, people shouldn’t feel daunted by a big target like seven. Whatever your starting point, it is always worth eating more fruit and vegetables,” she said.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock