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Why eating your 'five a day' could save 30,000 lives.

MORE than 30,000 lives could be saved every year in the UK if people followed healthy eating guidelines, according to research published today.

Eating five portions of fruit and veg a day would save 15,000 lives, including 7,000 from coronary heart disease, almost 5,000 from cancer and more than 3,000 from stroke.

Another 4,000 early deaths could be prevented by sticking to the recommendations on dietary fibre, while almost 7,000 would be prevented by watching fat intake and another 7,500 by monitoring salt. When taken together, around 33,000 lives could be saved every year.

Experts at Oxford University analysed a variety of figures from across the UK for 2005 to 2007. They included deaths from coronary heart disease, stroke and cancers, figures on food and nutrient intake, and studies on the influence of diet on illness and early death.

The UK's nutritional goals and guidelines are for people to eat 440g of fruit and vegetables every day and 18g of fibre.

A third of the total number of calories should come from fat but saturated fat should only make up 10%. People should also consume no more than 6g of salt a day.

Writing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the researchers concluded: "Achieving UK dietary recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption (five portions a day) would result in substantial health benefits - equivalent benefits would be achieved if salt intakes were lowered to 3.5g per day or saturated fat intakes to 3% of total energy." The researchers said no country in the UK fully meets the dietary recommendations, with Scotland and Northern Ireland the furthest away from achieving them. Only around a third of Britons are thought to consume the recommended amount of fruit and veg each day.

Dr Peter Scarborough, from Oxford University, who led the research, said: "Meeting dietary recommendations would have amassive effect on the health of the nation. According to our model, the biggest impact would be eating more fruit and veg. But this doesn't mean you should just stop at five - the more the better.

"In some European countries they get to five a day easily. Adding fruit and veg into your daily diet is achievable for everyone."

The study was co-funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Its senior dietician, Victoria Taylor, said: "By eating more fruit and vegetables there is less room in your diet for other foods that might not be great for your heart. This research highlights that well-worn dietary messages - like eating five portions of fruit and veg a day - shouldn't be overlooked, because they could have a huge impact on our health."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 16, 2010
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