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5-a-day fruit and vegetables is a myth claims nutrition expert

By dsorbello at Jan. 16, 2013, 11:28 p.m., 22141 hits

By Zoe Harcombe
Last updated at 9:55 AM on 24th January 2011

With great fanfare, it was reported last week that the current health advice about eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is outdated, and that scientists now believe that eight portions is more beneficial.

While many people grumbled about how on earth they would manage those extra portions, I ­allowed myself a wry smile.
For more than two years I’ve known that the ‘five-a-day’ mantra we’re all so familiar with is nothing but a fairytale

Of course, they are tasty, colourful additions to any meal. But in terms of health and nutrition, fruit and veg have little to offer, and telling us to eat eight portions a day is compounding one of the worst health fallacies in recent history.

Surprised? Many people will be, and no doubt some dieticians and nutritionists will reject my arguments. But science backs me up.
The latest findings come from a European study into diet and health looking at 300,000 people in eight countries.

It found that people who ate eight or more portions of fresh food a day had a 22 per cent lower chance of dying from heart disease. Yet just 1,636 participants died during the study from heart disease, which is about half of one per cent.

Out of that very small proportion, fewer people died from the group that ate more fruit and veg.
However, the researchers cautioned that these people may have healthier lifestyles generally. They may be less likely to smoke; they may eat less processed food; they may be more active.

What we should not do is to make the usual bad science leap from association to causation and say ‘eating more fruit and veg lowers the risk of dying from heart disease’.

Vegetables offer some vitamins, but your body will be able to absorb these only if you add some fat, such as butter or olive oil
This survey comes not long after another large study, which examined half a million people over eight years, reported that fruit and veg offer no protection against breast, prostate, bowel, lung or any other kind of tumour. Those eating the most fruit and veg showed no difference in cancer risk compared with those ­eating the least.

So how have we been duped for so long?
You might assume our five-a-day ­fixation is based on firm evidence. But you’d be wrong.

It started as a marketing campaign dreamt up by around 20 fruit and veg ­companies and the U.S. National Cancer Institute at a meeting in California in 1991. And it’s been remarkably successful.
People in 25 countries, across three continents, have been urged to eat more greens, and have done so in their millions, believing it was good for them.

No doubt it was set up with the best intentions — to improve the health of the nation and reduce the incidence of cancer. But there was no evidence that it was doing us any good at all.

The fact that our own government has spent £3.3 million over the past four years on the five-a-day message shows how pervasive this belief is.
People are convinced that fruit and vegetables are a particularly

For a long time, I too was a believer. I was a vegetarian for 20 years. It is only after nearly two decades of my own research — I am a Cambridge graduate and currently studying for a PhD in nutrition —that I have changed my views.

The message that fruit and veg are pretty useless, nutritionally, gradually dawned on me.
The facts are these. There are 13 vitamins and fruit is good for one of them, vitamin C.

Vegetables offer some vitamins — vitamin C and the vegetable form of the fat-soluble vitamins A and vitamin K1 — but your body will be able to absorb these only if you add some fat, such as butter or olive oil.
The useful forms of A and K — ­retinol and K2 respectively — are found only in animal foods. As for minerals, there are 16 and fruit is good for one of them, potassium, which is not a substance we are often short of, as it is found in water.

Vegetables can be OK for iron and calcium but the vitamins and minerals in animal foods (meat, fish, eggs and dairy products) beat those in fruit and vegetables hands down. There is far more vitamin A in liver than in an apple, for instance.

But surely, people ask, even if there is no evidence that increasing our intake of fruit and vegetables will help prevent disease, they remain good things to eat?

I don’t think so. If people try to add five portions of fruit and veg — let alone eight — a day to their diet, it can be counterproductive. Fruit contains high levels of fructose, or fruit sugar.

Among dieticians, fructose is known as ‘the fattening carbohydrate’. It is not metabolised by the body in the same way as glucose, which enters the bloodstream and has a chance to be used for energy before it heads to the liver.

Fructose goes straight to the liver and is stored as fat. Very few ­people understand or want to believe this biochemical fact.

Another argument that is often put forward by dieticians on behalf of fruit and vegetables is that they are ‘a source of antioxidants’.
They believe we need to have more ­antioxidants in our diet to counteract the oxidants that damage the body’s cells, either as a result of normal metabolic processes or as a reaction to environmental chemicals and pollutants.

But I would rather concentrate on not putting oxidants such as sugar, processed food, cigarette smoke or chemicals into my body.

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Posts [ 9 ] | Last post Jan. 16, 2013, 11:28 p.m.
#1 - Feb. 7, 2011, 2:54 a.m.

Very insightful. I suppose your diet did not include brans,nuts, seeds and/or oils derived from same. Since you are a PhD student, you might also want to contact experts such as Prof. Donald Abrams, PhD, UCSF; Prof Christopher Gardner, PhD,Stanford University, Dr. Ajit Varki,PhD at UCSD. Their research may be useful to you in making your conclusions.

I donot agree with your conclusions. The reason:

I have been a vegetarian for the past 65 years. I have never consumed meat, fish or eggs. The only animal products I consume are notfat milk or nonfat milk based products in moderate to small portions. I get my medical profile once or twice a year, and am in perfect health and don't remember the last time I consumed ANY drug including aspirin other than 2.5 years ago when I had a torn shoulder ligament and took pain reducing tablets for two days and changed to electrotherapy instead for a month.

If you are interested, I can provide you more information about my lifestyle. The interesting part is that when I joined UC Berkeley for my masters degree in 1967, and went for a medical checkup, the doctor who performed the checkup couldn't imagine how anyone can survive without consuming meat.

There are numerous studies which do not agree with your conclusions, the most recent of these is “Fruit and vegetable intake and mortality from ischaemic heart disease: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Heart study.” Eur Heart J., January 18, 2011; doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehq465.

Current link for the American Dietetic Association:
Do you agree with the findings?

I am sure you are familiar with the work of Dr.Dean Ornish, MD, UCSF. Do you agree with his findings? According to him, the most desirable foods are Grooup I and Group II foods (No meat, eggs or fish).Non-fat dairy foods (no more than 2 servings/day) and egg whites are included.

“Medical costs attributable to smoking and meat consumption combined are greater than the costs of providing health coverage for all currently uninsured Americans” quoted from : Neal Barnard, et al., “The Medical Costs Attributable to Meat Consumption,”
Preventive Medicine (24), 1995, pp. 646-55.

“China Study”, a 20-year partnership among Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine demonstrated that high consumption of animal-based foods is associated with more chronic disease, while those who ate primarily a plant-based diet were the healthiest. Ref: Dr. T Collin Campbell,PhD, Cornell University.

I don't want to criticize anyone regarding their work but what you state is true if and only if only fruits and vegetables are consumed. Vegetarian diet is a different issue altogether.

#2 - Feb. 7, 2011, 10:51 a.m.

I dont get the point of regulating your food intake when you can get rid of old age symptoms using creams and simple exercises

Try them, instead of controlling your eating habits. They worked well for me. They dont change things totally, but got a much more comprehensive result than all other things I have tried.

#3 - Feb. 9, 2011, 3:32 p.m.

I dont get the point of regulating your food intake when you can get rid of old age symptoms using creams and simple exercises

Try them, instead of controlling your eating habits. They worked well for me. They dont change things totally, but got a much more comprehensive result than all other things I have tried.

#4 - Feb. 10, 2011, 10:10 a.m.

If you didn’t know yet: fruit is the ultimate brain fuel. Fruit has a positive effect on our brains. The way this works still has to be found out and many scientists are looking into it as we speak. What we do know is that if you consume fruit effectively, your brains can recall information faster and more easily.

#5 - May 13, 2011, 3:51 p.m.
personal training

I think this debate will continue to roll on, in a similar way that it does for salt in the diet, bread, eggs and chocolate. What I would like to pick up on, however, is that fruit such as apples have great fibre content, which most would agree, is an essential element of any diet. Other fruit & veg are known to contain cholesterol reducing elements (eg pectin from grapefruit). There are a whole lot of good reasons for eating 5 or more portions of fruit and veg, as part of a balanced diet, including appetite suppressors (again, like the apple that also helps maintain a balance sugar level through the day) as part of a weight loss or fitness plan. Again, most would agree that having a healthy diet also means not getting hungry and snacking out on fast (fatty) foods. I also agree with the comment about “brain food” - especially as there is much about the brain we do not yet fully understand (nor actually use in a conscious manner).

#6 - May 25, 2011, 1:53 a.m.

i do not agree with 5-a-day fruit and vegetables is a myth claims nutrition expert because its my own experience, only the thing is we should be knowing what to eat when and specially concentrate on the selection of fruit or should full of nutritious……..

#7 - Aug. 25, 2012, 8:55 a.m.

Fruits and vegetables are definitely important to a healthy diet but it is about eating a balanced diet of good carbs and fats along with protein. Most of us don't get enough protein and usually over due it on carbs so making adjustments to make sure you are eating a healthy diet is essential to losing weight or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The best balanced diet is one that includes 50 percent good carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains; 30 percent protein, such as fish or meat; and 20 percent good fat such as olive oil.

— Last Edited by rosyadams at 2012-08-25 08:56:38 —

— Last Edited by Greentea at 2012-08-25 22:53:20 —

#8 - Sept. 13, 2012, 10:06 p.m.

I'm all about eating more fruits and vegetable as well as protein.Actually I have to force myself to include the fruits, I wish I liked them more than I do, of course I prefer the sweeter fruits such as dates,figs, raisons etc. My problem is I get a sugar drop after eating fruit much the same as I would after eating a forbidden chocolate bar and I'm wondering if this is a problem with any one else and if I should be concerned.

#9 - Jan. 16, 2013, 11:28 p.m.

Very informative and effective information you had discuss here.
Fruits and vegetables are great source of energy and useful for balanced diet.
Keep posting………