We have always understood the importance of fruit and vegetables to human health. Along with sleep, water, and exercise, fruit and veg consumption has been a consistent element in health messaging around the world. However, despite the recognised benefits of fresh produce, the recommended amount and ratio of fruit and veg intake has been far from consistent. A huge new global study has shed light on the issue. Five daily servings of fruit and vegetables is the recommended amount, with the ideal ratio being two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables.
According to the study, which was published
in the American Heart Association's Circulation journal and based on data from
nearly 2 million adults, 5-a-day should be the consistent message going forward.
Currently, most adults do not consume nearly enough fruit and veg, with limited
consumption having an adverse effect on numerous health outcomes. For example,
people who don't eat enough fruit and vegetables are at a greater risk of
cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and death from all causes.
According to the lead author of the study,
Dong D. Wang, consistent recommendations are possible for the entire global
population: "While groups like the American Heart Association recommend
four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily, consumers likely get
inconsistent messages about what defines optimal daily intake of fruits and
vegetables such as the recommended amount, and which foods to include and
avoid... Our analysis in the two cohorts of U.S. men and women yielded results
similar to those from 26 cohorts around the world, which supports the
biological plausibility of our findings and suggests these findings can be
applied to broader populations."
In the paper, more than 100,000 adults were
studied for a period of up to 30 years. Data was collected every two to four
years, including detailed dietary information on fruit and vegetable intake
along with information on disease and death. In addition to this core group, the
study also involved a meta-analysis of other studies. Overall, data was
collected from 26 independent studies, 1.9 million participants, and 29
countries and territories around the world. In order to give a true global
picture, data was analysed from North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa,
The study revealed a number of key
findings, some of which were more obvious than others. Eating roughly two
servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables was associated with the
greatest longevity, although eating any more than this amount was not associated
with any additional benefit. People who met the recommendation had a 13% lower
risk of death from all causes, a 12% lower risk of death from cardiovascular
disease, a 10% lower risk of death from cancer, and a 35% lower risk of death
from respiratory disease.
Not all produce offered the same benefits,
however, with potatoes, juices, and starchy vegetables like peas and corn not
associated with any reduction in death or disease numbers. Green leafy
vegetables were the most beneficial, including spinach, lettuce, and kale.
Benefits were also noted in many other fruit and vegetables, including those
rich in beta carotene and vitamin C. While not as good as leafy greens, citrus
fruits, berries, and carrots all had a positive impact. While the study did not
show a direct cause-and-effect relationship between fruit and veg consumption
and long life, it did highlight key similarities among the entire global