I don’t blame you for being confused by the sound bites and headlines about a new report on fruit and vegetable consumption published in July 2014. To be clear – no, eating more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day isn’t going to hurt you, and despite this report’s findings, I think it will do you considerable good. Here’s the story: researchers from China and the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed the results of 16 studies involving data on 833,234 participants, 56,423 of whom died during the course of the various investigations. Their analysis showed that eating more than five servings of fruits and vegetables daily didn’t help the subjects live longer or give them added protection against heart disease. However, the review did reveal that for each additional helping of fruits or vegetables – but only up to five a day – the risk of death dropped five percent; the data also showed that for each serving of fruits and vegetables daily, the risk of death from heart disease dropped four percent.
The researchers were looking for a link between daily servings of fruits and vegetables and the risk of death from any cause as well as from heart disease specifically. The result doesn’t prove that eating up to five servings a day of fruits and vegetables was responsible for the decrease in deaths or that eating more than five helpings daily wasn’t beneficial. It just didn’t recognize any extra benefit for consuming more than five serving a day. Although the analysis on eating fruits and vegetables revealed information about a reduced overall risk of death, it did not identify a lower risk of death from any type of cancer.
To confuse matters further, another report published earlier this year found that the lowest risk of death was linked to eating seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
In news reports, the senior author of the latest analysis suggested that the body may be able to process only a certain amount of produce daily, limiting our ability to absorb additional nutrients if we eat more, but that is just a guess.
My Anti-Inflammatory Diet calls for eating four to five helpings of vegetables and three to four servings of fruit daily. I see no reason to revise that recommendation.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Frank B. Hu et al, “Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies,” BMJ doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136
Oyinlola Oyebode et al, “Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause, cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data.” Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health doi:10.1136/jech-2013-203500Oy