Hey! – Rob here 👋🏼
Your Daily Health Fix today is about …
The ‘Eat your Fruit and Veg’ Mantra
You’ve heard it a million times – EAT YOUR 5 A DAY (of fruit and vegetables). This policy has been adopted round the world in various iterations (5+2 a day in Australia, 9 per day in the USA etc.)
This mantra proliferated far and wide, even to the point that Doctors and Nutritionists are guiding patients to adopting this dietary habit – but did anyone actually stop and ask if there was any evidence to support such schemes?
How did it start:
The “five-a-day” recommendation for fruit and vegetable consumption started in 1991 as a public-private partnership between the National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation. The program was a marketing campaign rather than as a result of scientific research. It aimed to increase fruit and vegetable consumption without a clear goal.
The sponsors of the Produce for Better Health Foundation stand to benefit from increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, yet the program still spread worldwide despite that there is no scientific evidence to support the recommendation. Unsurprisingly, other produce marketers were also quick to jump on the band wagon.
The campaign was successful in increasing the awareness and consumption of fruits and vegetables, but hasn’t had any positive impact on obesity rates, rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, or more generally on health spans or all cause mortality.
What the research shows:
After years of hearing the various versions of the ‘eat more fruit and veg’ mantra’s, here’s some fun facts that may surprise you:-
1. NO PROTECTIVE EFFECTS AGAINST CANCER HAVE BEEN ESTABLISHED FROM FRUIT & VEG CONSUMPTION
2. FRUITS AND VEGETABLES CANNOT PROVIDE US WITH VITAMIN A (retinol), VITAMINS D, B12 or K2, (all necessary for optimal health)
3. INTAKE OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES IS ASSOCIATED WITH LOWERED CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE – BUT NOT CAUSAL
3. POPULATIONS WHERE INDIVIDUAL CONSUMPTION OF MEAT IS HIGHEST ALSO SEE GREATEST LIFE EXPECTANCY
5. ADHERENCE TO A CARNIVORE (MEAT ONLY DIET) HAS BEEN SEEN TO IMPROVE OR RESOLVE MULTIPLE CHRONIC ILLNESSES.
TL;DR – Consumption of fruit and veg tends to correlate with better health outcomes as people that have other healthy habits (such as regular exercise, good sleep, no smoking, limited alcohol and processed food) also consume more fruit and veg – BUT, the evidence suggesting that fruit and veg are contributory to improved health is at best weak, but arguably doesn’t exist. [see references below]
Check out Zoe Harcombe’s excellent article for a more detailed break down of the history, misinformation campaigns, and statistical analysis of the research, and a deep dive into the nutrition in relation to the 5 a Day Fruit and Veg Campaign
What should I do?
Question everything – Because in the nutrition space, so many of the health claims widely believed are thought up by marketing departments, not measured by scientists.
Cut out processed food – Not only because they are designed to be highly palatable and addictive, but because they cause havoc with our endocrine (hormonal) system, especially with regard to digestion and metabolism of energy.
Use animal fats for cooking – As well as being as a good source of stable energy, they are rich in the fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K2) that fruits and vegetables cant provide.
Increase protein consumption – Because calories from protein promote satiety, at the same time as providing your body with the building blocks for tissue development and repair, and fuel for enzymatic processes.
Reduce carb consumption – Sugar intoxication leads to diabetes and hormone disruption – also contributing to excess body fat.
Preference the parts of plants that are least toxic – eat the parts of the plant (like the seasonal fruits) that nature intended. Without it’s leaves or roots, plants die, which is why they contain the most problematic compounds for human consumption.
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. . . That’s it for this dose,
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References . . .
Raw and Cooked Vegetable Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Study of 400,000 Adults in UK Biobank
Total Meat Intake is Associated with Life Expectancy: A Cross-Sectional Data Analysis of 175 Contemporary Populations
Behavioral Characteristics and Self-Reported Health Status among 2029 Adults Consuming a “Carnivore Diet”
General Mechanisms of Plant Defense and Plant Toxins
No effect of 600 grams fruit and vegetables per day on oxidative DNA damage and repair in healthy nonsmokers
Plant Food Toxins in an Evolutionary Context — George Diggs, Ph.D. (AHS14)
Cambridge Ideas – Don’t Eat the Plants
Science publication is broken – one way to fix it
Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journals