Five Fruits and Vegetables a Day: Just Hype?
How conscientious are you in following the health guidelines of eating five fruits and vegetables a day?
If you faithfully chomp your way through kale, chard and Brussels sprouts in an attempt to stay healthy, you may be in for a disappointment.
It turns out that a new study published online this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows that eating more fruits and vegetables does not protect you from cancer as much as previously thought.
The study followed more than 520,000 European men and women from 1992 to 2000. Researchers surveyed the subjects for diet and lifestyle, including their alcohol intake and whether they smoked.
It found only "a very small inverse association between intake of total fruits and vegetables and cancer risk." The groups that benefited the most from reduced cancer risk were women who increased their consumption of vegetables; heavy smokers; and those who smoke and drank alcohol.
The study had its limitations, researchers admitted. It did not take into account differences in crop and food preparation, and participants may have made errors in reporting their dietary habits, they said.
Nevertheless, experts still recommend eating more fruits and vegetables as a way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, online readers reacted with cynicism and skepticism toward both the report and the "five a day" campaign.
"Who paid for this research, and what were their goals related to the findings? Were these done with or without organically grown produce, that do not use dangerous poisons or chemicals to grow them?" wrote one commenter in response to a U.S. News and World Report article.
"What a surprise NOT. Yet another government scheme where millions of pounds is spent pushing a scheme that has little or no benefit whatsoever. The money would have been better spent providing fresh fruit in schools, although the companies running it would have charged five times the cost of the fruit and provided only half of the required amount," Rolf Kitching wrote The Daily Mail in England.
"Once again, a load of wacky scientists predicting . Oh yes nothing," another reader wrote The Daily Mail.
What do you think? To what extent will this report's finding change your dietary habits? What do you think about the study's methodology? Do you think the "five a day" campaign was worthwhile?
What about the reaction to the report? What accounts for the skepticism and cynicism we see? What can scientists and/or the government do to counter this? To what extent can they change public sentiment? What role should journalists play, if any?
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