It’s old news that a balanced diet – one that includes fruits and vegetables – is the key to sustaining good health. But how much is enough? Balanced for one person might mean a forkful of broccoli and a handful of grapes. For others, the pursuit of healthy eating means juicing an entire kale, three apples and a whole head of spinach – and downing it all before breakfast.
But new clinical research from China and the United States has revealed then when it comes to optimizing our intake of those powerful micronutrients, five is the magic number. Tests confirm that 5 daily servings of fruits and veggies offer significant protection against a range of afflictions, particularly cardiovascular disease.
Digging Into The Numbers
The study, published in BMJ’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health focused on investigating a previous claim that seven servings of fruits and vegetables protect human health better than lesser amounts, and had a particular impact on cancer prevention. Inconsistent findings prompted a closer look, so the researchers compiled and analysed the results of sixteen studies involving a total of 833,234 participants and 56,423 deaths. They determined that the risk of death from disease reduced by 5% for each additional daily serving of fruit and vegetables. However, benefits capped off at 5 servings – there were no substantial perks associated with larger amounts.
Cancer Prevention More About Lifestyle Choices
Notably, the research revealed that contrary to the results of the first inconclusive study, cancer was not substantially impacted by fruit and vegetable consumption. The study’s lead scientists observed that lifestyle choices like smoking, high alcohol intake, and physical inactivity were the real culprits when it comes to cancer – small changes in diet alone were not enough to make an impact.
Implications for Health Care
Reliance on prescription drugs to manage disease is at an all-time high. And still, we have yet to discover cures for most diseases – only treatments to manage symptoms. Pharmaceutical testing is increasingly costly and time-consuming, and while quality assurance and quality control is practiced rigorously, many patients suffer side-effects from the medicines they take to control their illness. There is a growing movement toward the natural treatment of disease. And toward less reliance on chemical solutions. Drug research and development is moving toward technology that can better monitor health, and target disease more efficiently – but until we get there, it’s nice to know that common sense advice like, “eat your veggies” now has scientifically proven merit. Hey, it turns out that an apple a day (plus a few more servings) really does keep the doctor away!
Does research like this make you want to change your diet for the better?