Thursday, 24 March 2011

Five a day? Think seventeen!

A bit of an off-topic blog this one, but an interesting recent article in i, The Independent's 'mini' newspaper (which is incidentally very good), focused on how dieticians and health advisors can come to no clear conclusion about just how many portions of fruit and vegetables a day we should all be consuming. And indeed whether eating a diet consisting of a high amount of fruit and vegetables might even lower the risk of cancer at all.

The association between fruit and vegetable intake and reduced cancer risk seems weak, with experts indicating that eating five a day might lower cancer rates by just 2.5%. In the best case scenario, an extra two portions of fruit and vegetables each day could prevent 2.6% of cancers in men and 2.3% of cases in women, a 2010 study concluded. The Researchers, from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (New York) took into account lifestyle factors such as smoking and exercise when drawing their conclusions. But writing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, they said they could not rule out that even the small reduction in cancer risk seen was down to the fact that the kind of people who ate more fruit and vegetables lived healthier lives in many other respects too.

The World Cancer Research Fund has apparently long indicated that we should all be consuming 5-10 portions a day, with a recent survey from The Institute of Optimum Nutrition finding that the healthiest people within this survey ate eight portions a day.

With other governments advocating that we should all be eating more than five a day - Spain 8, Greece 9, Canada up to 10, and Japan amazingly 17 - why have the UK chosen five as the magical number? Well, it seems that the magical figure five was not gained from research - but from what the government deemed us unhealthy Brit's might be actually able to meet. With our daily intake of roughly two and a half portions a day it was seen that if it was any higher than five people simply would not be able to ever image achieving that target. To quote i:“In other words, our government aimed low because Brit's diets were so rubbish, that they thought that five was the best we could manage.”

But a word of warning in the i article comes from Zoe Harcombe, a leading nutritionist: Eating too much fruit might actually make you put on weight and lead to heart problems due to its high fructose (sugar) content. So now not only do we have to aim to eat seventeen portions of fruit or vegetables a day to be like the healthy Japanese, but not include too much fruit either. Confused?!

Eating healthily might just help you stay well and ward off cancer, but in the end it comes down to how you're generally living your life. Food for thought indeed...

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