April 1, 2014
Many countries recommend citizens “strive for five” servings of fruit and vegetables a day, but a study found people should be eating seven servings of produce a day — if not more.
The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, found fresh vegetables had the strongest protective effect, with each daily portion reducing overall risk of death by 16 percent — salad contributed to a 13 percent risk reduction per portion, and each portion of fresh fruit was associated with a smaller but still significant 4 percent reduction.
Lead author Dr. Oyinlola Oyebode, of the University College London’s Department of Epidemiology & Public Health and colleagues, used the Health Survey for England to study the eating habits of 65,226 people representative of the English population from 2001 to 2013. The study found the more fruit and vegetables they ate, the less likely they were to die at any age.
The study also found eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces your risk of death at any point in time by 42 percent, compared to eating less than one portion.
Eating seven or more portions reduced the specific risks of death by cancer by 25 percent, and reduced the risk of death from heart disease by 31 percent.
“We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering,” Oyebode said in a statement. “The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age.”
However, the study found no evidence of a significant benefit from fruit juice, and canned and frozen fruit appeared to increase risk of death by 17 percent per portion.
“Most canned fruit contains high sugar levels and cheaper varieties are packed in syrup rather than fruit juice,” Oyebode said. “The negative health impacts of the sugar may well outweigh any benefits. Another possibility is that there are confounding factors that we could not control for, such as poor access to fresh groceries among people who have pre-existing health conditions, hectic lifestyles or who live in deprived areas.”