06 Apr 2017 Guest Blog: 10-a-Day? An Expert View
Dr Julie Abayomi is a Registered Dietician and Reader in Dietetics at Liverpool John Moores University. Her research predominantly focuses on maternal nutrition, maternal obesity and maternal diabetes with over 20 research papers and 30 conference papers published.
A study published in International Journal of Epidemiology last month cause a great deal of controversy after appearing to suggest that we should not be aiming for 5 portions of fruit & vegetables per day, but 10 – Is that what the study actually stated or was this suggestion caused by the way the facts were reported by the media? Headlines in newspapers included “Forget five a day, eat 10 portions of fruit and veg to cut risk of early death” (Guardian) and “We should be eating 10 portions of fruit and veg each day, not five” (Metro).
The research conducted by Imperial College, London reviewed the evidence from 95 different studies and concluded that increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables was always associated with health benefits: people who consume 2-3 portions per day, have less health risks than those who don’t consume any; people who consume 10 portions or more have the least risk. However, the advice from WHO and PHE has always been to consume AT LEAST 5 x 80g portions of fruit and vegetables per day, so rather than viewing 5-a-day as the maximum intake, it should be the starting point of a healthy diet.
The problem with the misreporting of this study is that it has the potential to discourage people: The National Diet & Nutrition Survey shows less than 30% of UK adults consume at least 5 portions of fruit & vegetables per day, so appearing to move the goals posts may be perceived as an unrealistic, unachievable goal. Furthermore, such simplistic media headlines helps to suggest that the so-called ‘experts’ have got it wrong again or changed their minds and so are not to be trusted. Social media responded accordingly with such comments, plus other arguments regarding the expense of purchasing such large quantities of costly food items for groups on limited incomes.
The take home message is that fruit and vegetable consumption is good for health: we should all try to include it in our diet as much as possible. For the majority of UK people who currently manage 2-3 portions per day – aim to increase this; for people who rarely consume any – 1-2 per day is a good start!
Dr Julie Abayomi