I brought a potato and two oranges to work today (an unlikely combo, yes?), and thus supplied, I am nearly halfway to the goal of seven fruits and vegetables a day.

Why seven?

As it happens, yet another food research story has been published, ascribing great value to ample servings of fresh vegetables and fruit in the lifetime goal of avoiding early death.

 None of us know the time of our death, true.

In Ecclesiastes, the Scripture says, “Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them."

 Apart from earthquakes, floods and assorted freak accidents on the road and at home, there is something we all can do to avoid the “cruel net” of failing health in our later years. To put a finer point on it, a new United Kingdom study once again illuminates the value of fresh fruits and vegetables.

 Published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the study is called, “Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause, cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data.”

From the authors’ discussion of results:

We found a strong inverse relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause mortality which was stronger when deaths within a year of baseline were excluded and when fully adjusting for physical activity. Fruit and vegetable consumption was significantly associated with reductions in cancer and CVD mortality, with increasing benefits being seen with up to more than seven portions of fruit and vegetables daily for the latter. Consumption of vegetables appeared to be significantly better than similar quantities of fruit. When different types of fruit and vegetable were examined separately, increased consumption of portions of vegetables, salad, fresh and dried fruit showed significant associations with lower mortality. However, frozen/canned fruit consumption was apparently associated with a higher risk of mortality.

We have shown that those eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables daily have the lowest risk of mortality from any cause. The majority of adults in the HSE 2007 knew they were recommended to eat five portions daily but stated barriers to improving their diet including: difficulty in changing habits, lack of time, cost, lack of motivation and eating what they were given. Even among participants who perceived their own diet as ‘very healthy’, over 50% ate less than five portions of fruit and vegetables daily. Fruit and vegetable consumption is inversely related to household income. This is not surprising, given the perception in England that fruit and vegetables are more expensive than unhealthy foods35 and that health education without changing the environment in which individual choices are taken, tends to increase inequalities. With increasing evidence of their health benefits, policy-makers may need to consider broader initiatives to promote fruit and vegetable consumption, particularly vegetables and salad, as with the Australian guidance. In order to have an impact on those who are most socioeconomically disadvantaged, this should move beyond health education, for example, through fiscal policies.


TK: As it turns out, more does matter. While the researchers admitted they don’t have all the answers and didn’t account for all the variables, it seems plain enough that eating more vegetables and fruit will help us live longer. Boom. Can the makers of bologna or frosted donuts make that claim? No way. Why can’t fresh produce marketers punch home a message like that? This is a lay up, a first and goal at the one yard line. Live long and prosper with fruits and veggies.