First a bit of history –
The phrase ‘five-a-day’ was created by the California Department of Health Services in 1988 as a marketing tool to increase fruit and veg consumption.
The campaign was adopted as a national initiative by the National Cancer Institute in the U.S. in 1991 after a meeting with the Produce for Better Health Foundation (which represents the fruit and veg industry).
The UK’s five-a-day advice follows a recommendation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1990, based on studies that show an association between the consumption of more than 400g of fruit and vegetables and lower risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
The five-a-day campaign was launched based on dividing 400g recommendation into five 80g portions.
Thomas Sanders, an emeritus professor of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London says –
‘The recommendations for fruit and vegetables are based on observational studies which showed that people who ate a lot of fruit and veg had a lower risk of cancer.’
A new study by Imperial College London concluded ten portions for fruit and veg is the goal. While five-a-day may be ill-defined, it’s still a helpful way to convey the gist of scientific research to the general public.
Thomas Sanders says ‘This study just shows that people who eat ten-a-day will have healthier lifestyles generally — i.e. not smoke, be more active — and not that this amount of fruit and veg improves health this much,’
The bottom line: Keep eating fruit and veg — but aim for more veg than fruit.