The message coming through peoples radios’ TV’s and mobile phones right now is that we as consumers should all be consuming 7 portions of fruit and veg instead of the regular 5. This is all very well, but no doubt the BBC reporters, radio DJ’s and news readers and the likes of who are broadcasting this message will appreciate that similar messages to this in the past e.g. the 5 a day incentive was pretty poorly understood…especially considering it is such a straightforward concept. The ‘5 a day’ message was well received, but not that well understood in that people were consuming 5 pieces of fruit and no veg, or visa versa. The rule was to aim for 3 portions of veg and 2 portions of fruit, but even this left some people confused because what constitutes a portion!? Well a portion of fruit is either 1 medium/large banana (although this is relative to age and size i.e. bigger people can have 1 large banana as a portion) or 2 small bananas, 1 medium sized apple or 2 small apples, 2 tangerines, 1 orange or a handful of grapes (a handful is relative to body size) as examples. A portion of veg would be an average serving spoon full of mixed veg, a handful of broccoli, cauliflower or green beans, and so on. However it is prudent to ensure that you consume more veg than fruit, and this is reinforced by Dr Oyinlola Oyebode’s study.
7 portions of Fruit and Veg increases life expectancy
Researchers from the University College London used the 2001- 2013 Health Survey for England to support their claims that 7 portions of fruit and veg is better at promoting health and longevity than 5. The findings of the study were the first of its kind enabling researchers to calculate precise health benefits of consuming certain fruit and veg at certain rates a day. The study found that 7 or more portions of fruit and veg (with a favourable benefit of consuming more veg than fruit) helped to reduce the risk of death from any cause by 42% compared to those who eat less than one. So going up from consuming 5 portions to 7 doesn’t mean you’re going to reduce your risk of death by 42% if you previously consumed ample fruit and veg, but if you were consuming 1 portion a day prior to consuming 7, then chances are you’ll significantly reduce your chances of cardiovascular disease (according to the studies findings).
Good study validity
The studies validity was good because adjustments were made to reflect for age, BMI, smoking and fitness (although how they qualified ‘fitness’ isn’t clear). It was estimated that each portion of vegetables consumed cumulatively reduced the risk of death by 16%. Salad was slightly less (although beneficial all the same) at 13%, but fruit was significantly less at 4%...probably attributed to its sugar content. Lead author Dr Oyinlola Oyebode explains:
“We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering”
He goes on to explain:
“The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age.
“Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference”
Interestingly canned fruits and fruit smoothies were less healthful because of their added syrups and pressurised conditions which can reduce the integrity of some of the vitamins and minerals. So it is best to stick with fresh and dried options if possible.