Eat seven-a-day

Five-a-day is not enough: health experts

British health experts say the current ‘5-a-day’ fruit and vegetable guidelines are not good enough and should be raised to ‘7’ or even ’10-a-day’. The recommendations follow research which found that eating large quantities of fruit and vegetables dramatically lowers the risk of death.

A new study by University College of London researchers of more than 65,000 people has revealed that those who ate the most fruit and vegetables were the least likely to die.

Seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day cut the risk of death by 42%, while five portions lowered the risk by 29%. Seven helpings reduced the risk of death from heart disease by 31% and from cancer by 25%. One portion was classified as an 80g serving.

Lead investigator Dr Oyinlola Oyebode told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s a clear message, the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the better your health. The group that ate seven portions of fruit and vegetables had the lowest incidence of mortality, as measured by cancer, heart attack and stroke.”

Vegetables improved health the most, said Oyebode: “Vegetables had a greater benefit but fruit also gave a significant benefit to health.” It was the micronutrients and fibre content of the vegetables that delivered the health benefit, as the antioxidants they contain help the body guard against disease by helping to repair cells.

The researchers reached their conclusions after studying National Health Service data, collected from questionnaires and nurse visits.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said the research showed eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day could reduce the risk of dying at any age.

BHF senior dietitian Victoria Taylor said: “This is another reminder that that eating fruit and vegetables is good for our heart health and an important part of a balanced diet.

“Recommendations on fruit and vegetables vary from country to country and there is always debate about what the optimum amount should be. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that on average, we are still struggling to meet our existing target of five-a-day here in the UK.”

Taylor added that those who ate fewer than five portions a day should keep trying to eat more: “This study showed there were health benefits for every extra portion of fruit and veg people ate.”

The NHS Choices website says: “Five-a-day is based on advice from the World Health Organization, which recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables a day to lower the risk of serious health problems , such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity.”

The Australian government encourages its citizens to eat two portions of fruit and five helpings of vegetables.