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Five-a-day 'enough

Wednesday July 30th, 2014

The UK government's five a day target for fruit and vegetables has sometimes been controversial - but a major new study today says it is right on target.

Some recent studies have suggested that people can make themselves even healthier by reaching seven-a-day or more. The latest study says this is not necessary.

A team led by Professor Frank Hu of Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA, looked at the link between fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of death from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. They found 16 earlier studies that followed participants over time, for between five and 26 years. Among the 833,234 participants there were 56,423 deaths, of which 11,512 were from diseases of the heart and circulation and 16,817 from cancer.

Results of their analysis appear in The BMJ.

The findings were welcomed by British experts.

Victoria Taylor, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study is another reminder that fruit and vegetables shouldn’t be an after-thought but an essential part of our meals and snacks.

“Although our five a day message is well established worryingly 70% of adults are still not meeting this target. It may seem like a difficult task, but it doesn’t have to be."

Writing the journal, the researchers say: "Higher consumption of fruit and vegetables was significantly associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality."

The risk fell by about 5% for each daily serving of fruit and vegetables. But they add: "There was a threshold around five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, after which the risk of all cause mortality did not reduce further."

For death from heart disease, "a significant inverse association was observed", with each additional serving cutting the risk by about 4%. No benefit was seen for death from cancer.

"This meta-analysis provides further evidence that a higher consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, particularly cardiovascular mortality," they write.

Wang, X. et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ 30 July 2014 doi: 10.1136/bmj.g4490 [abstract]

Tags: Diet & Food | Heart Health | North America

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