Seven-a-day a new mantra to stay healthy
People who eat seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day will be healthier and live longer, a recent study suggests.
The current recommendation is set at five portions a day, which many people already find difficult.
The study of 65,226 men and women conducted by the University College London used data on diet and lifestyle collected between 2001 and 2008 by the National Health Survey.
The researchers found that seven-a-day reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease. Figures show mortality reduced by 42% for those who ate between seven and ten portions a day.
Fresh vegetables were found to be most beneficial followed by salad and then fruit.
Fruit juice on the other hand was of no benefit and canned fruit appeared to increase the risk of death, which could be blamed to the sugary syrup the fruit is stored in.
One of the members of the research team Dr Oyinlola Oyebode said: “The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetable you eat, the less likely you are to die – at any age.”
Dr Oyebode described the results as “staggering” but emphasised that a few portions were better than none and suggested that cell-repairing antioxidants as well as the micronutrients and fibre contained in fruit and vegetables are good for health.
Critics of the study suggest the results are inconclusive due to the influence of other lifestyle factors.
A professor with the King’s College London, Tom Sanders has described those who eat a lot of fruit and vegetables to be more health conscious, better educated and wealthier than those who do not, perhaps accounting for the drop in mortality.
Others have suggested that seven-a-day message will be hard to promote.
Dr Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine with the University of Glasgow, commented: “Seven-a-day would require governmental support such as subsidising the cost of fruit and vegetables, perhaps by taxing sugar-rich foods, and making available high quality products to all in society.”
Dr Alison Tedstone, member with the Public Health England, urged caution and said: “People tend to understand this five-a-day message and I think we should keep it simple and stay as we are.”
A senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, Victoria Taylor remarked that many people already struggle to reach five a day.
She said: “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.”
Photo: Aastha Gill