Portsmouth lecturer has his say on study showing 10 fruit and veg a day is key to longer life

Credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire
Credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

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  • Eating 10 portions of fruit and veg gives greater protection against disease than eating five, study finds
  • Food such as apples, pears and citrus fruits can help prevent heart disease and early death
  • Public Health England nutritionist says eating more creates an ‘unrealistic expectation’
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Eating 10 portions of fruit and vegetables every day could significantly reduce a person’s risk of heart disease and cancer, a new study has found.

While eating the recommended five a day still helps reduce disease risk, researchers found the highest benefits are seen when people consume 10 portions.

The study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, also named the fruit and vegetables which provided the greatest protection against disease.

Researchers from Imperial College London analysed data from 95 studies concerning fruit and vegetable intake.

The team found that although even the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduced disease risk, the greatest benefit came from eating 800g a day - assuming that 80g is one portion - compared with people who ate none at all.

But even smaller intakes had benefits - a daily intake of two-and-a-half portions was associated with a 16 per cent reduced risk of heart disease, a four per cent lower risk of cancer and a 15 per cent reduction in the risk of premature death.

Credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

But Dr Andrew Scott, a principal lecturer at the University of Portsmouth’s Department of Sport and Exercise Science, said there had never been strong evidence before that more fruit and vegetables will benefit health.

He said: ‘This meta-analysis, a combination of data from lots of studies, suggests that more is better.

‘The “5-a-day” promotion is a method of encouraging people to include fruit and vegetables to a sufficient amount, rather than being evidence-based.

‘These new findings will probably not alter most people’s intakes of fruits and vegetables.

Our results suggest that although five portions of fruit and vegetables is good, 10 a day is even better.

Lead author Dr Dagfinn Aune

‘This is just one aspect of a healthy lifestyle, which the study acknowledges, alongside not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, moderating alcohol consumption and, most importantly, commencing and maintaining a physically active lifestyle.’

Consuming 10 portions a day was associated with a 24 per cent reduced risk of heart disease, a 33 per cent lower risk of stroke, a 28 per cent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13 per cent reduced risk of cancer, and a 31 per cent reduction in the risk of dying prematurely.

The research team also found that apples and pears, citrus fruits, salads and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and chicory, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower may help protect against heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and early death.

And cancer risk could be reduced by eating green vegetables, such as spinach or green beans, yellow vegetables, such as peppers and carrots, and cruciferous vegetables.

Lead author Dr Dagfinn Aune, from the School of Public Health at Imperial, said: ‘We wanted to investigate how much fruit and vegetables you need to eat to gain the maximum protection against disease, and premature death.

‘Our results suggest that although five portions of fruit and vegetables is good, 10 a day is even better.

‘Fruit and vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and to boost the health of our blood vessels and immune system.

‘This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold.

‘For instance they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage, and lead to a reduction in cancer risk.

‘It is clear from this work that a high intake of fruit and vegetables holds tremendous health benefits, and we should try to increase their intake in our diet.’

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: ‘The 5-A-Day target is the foundation of a healthy balanced diet and is an achievable way to help prevent a number of diseases.

‘Whilst consuming more than five portions of fruit and vegetables a day may be desirable, two thirds of adults currently don’t consume the recommended minimum of 5-A-Day.

‘Adding pressure to consume more fruit and vegetables creates an unrealistic expectation.’