5 a day ? No Way!

5-a-day5-a-day? No Way!

This has to be the most widely promoted well known public health campaign in the country.  And given that fact, you might be forgiven for thinking the advice was based on medical evidence and scientific fact?

Well, you’d be wrong!  Because there is no scientific evidence.  In fact, this campaign was invented in California in 1991 by the American National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation who’s members comprise vegetable growers, packers and the logistics world of …..that’s right, fruit and veg growing and fruit and veg packing. Yes the very organisations that have the most to gain (financially) by convincing the world to eat more fruit and veg.

So what’s the theory?  Fruit and veg are recommended (in conventional dietary wisdom) to prevent heart disease and cancer because of their antioxidant properties: they are supposed to prevent the creation of damaging free radicals.  Interesting but is it this true?  The most recent study was published in April 2010 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.  The study involved 142,605 men and 335,873 women  for the period 1992 – 2000.  The review found that eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day had little effect on cancer risk and concluded that the very small difference observed could be attributable to other factors: giving up alcohol or smoking, obesity, exercise, taking the Pill or HRT.

There are a remarkable number of other studies which also fail to support the claims made.  For example, in 2002 the University of Helsinki studied the effects of high and low intakes of vegetables and berries and apples on oxidation in subjects consuming diets high in unsaturated fatty acids.  They found “no significant differences between the diets”

In 2003 THE CARDIO 2000  study results were published.  The study was looking at fruit and vegetable consumption in relation to heart disease.  The study found in favour of fruit and vegetable consumption and concluded that it could reduce the risk of heart disease but signficantly it did not need five portions a day to achieve this. “Consumption of two or more servings a week is associated with a 70% reduction in relative risk” the researchers concluded.  And yes, you read that right,“two or more servings a week”.

In fact,  Professor Sir Charles George (medical director of the British Heart Foundation) said during an interview with the Daily Mail about the study results and the obvious conflict with government guidelines that “there is some argument about how much you need.  I think five may be an arbitrary figure.”

So what’s the problem  and why are Paleo Works flagging this up?

Simply this: what we have is a marketing campaign with no provable significant benefit for public health.  The campaign is based on neither medical evidence nor scientific fact.

Worse still this campaign is fuelling the obesity epidemic.  Why?  Because of the high levels of fructose contained in fruit and the effect it has on our bodies (not to mention teeth – if parents knew the damaging effect fruit juice had on their children, the likes of Tropicana and Sunny Delight would be out of business by tomorrow).  Take a look at this article we wrote on the damaging effects of fructose.  In summary we state that the high sugar content of many fruits means that they are not something to emphasise in your diet if weight loss and optimal health are your goals.  This is particularly so if you do not tolerate carbohydrate well (specifically: diabetics, type 2 diabetics, those who suffer from metabolic syndrome or are insulin resistant).

If you are going to eat fruit, eat it sparingly and opt for berries which are relatively low in sugar and offer a better deal in terms of nutrient content.  Avocados are also a good choice given the high good fat content.  Every day fruit: apples; peaches; pears; plums; citrus fruits – eat these in moderation and by that we mean watch your body and how it reacts.  High sugar tropical fruits (pineapples, mangoes, paw-paws, passion fruit) : these should be avoided until you hit your weight loss targets  And don’t eat dried fruit, period!

Vegetables are a great choice on the paleo diet especially those that grow above the ground such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale.  These tend to be low in carbohydrate and highly nutritious containing folate, vitamin C, phytochemicals and soluble fibre.  If you are looking to increase calcium in your diet choose:  collard greens, spinach or turnip greens.  Vegetables that grow below the ground are richer in carbohydrate content and should be eaten less frequently: carrots, parsnips, swedes, sweet potatoes, squashes, pumpkins.  Avoid white potatoes for their effect on your insulin.   Great alternatives to mashed potato are mashed cauliflower or mashed  celeriac (mash with cream or butter or both, add seasoning) Onions are fine (impossible to overeat onions) and mushrooms are relatively low in carbohydrate and rich in vitamin D and tasty (especially in a fried breakfast)!

In summary – avoid fruit in favour of vegetables if weight loss and great health are your goals.  And be selective int he vegetables you chose.  Follow the paleo diet and in this way, your weight will continue to fall off.  Finally avoid those public health campaign messages….or at least investigate for yourself and check that the findings are based on scientific evidence and not fuelled by an industry with a vested financial interest! So the very next time you hear a food manufacturer or distributor telling you it’s part of your five-a-day, you’ll be saying No Way!


About Paleo Works

Paleo Works Have you ever wondered how you arrived at “being overweight” and thought how difficult it is to get rid of and keep off those excess pounds? Hi, I’m Katie and together with Mike my husband, we are Paleo Works. As a busy working mum of four, I often watched others embark on weight loss progammes only to return to their start weight (and then some) shortly after reaching their target. Why was this happening? Conventional dietary wisdom would have us believe that it’s YOU who has failed. But Mike and I thought different. We felt that there had to be something wrong with that conventional dietary wisdom after all we can’t all be hopeless? So we studied intensely, sought out advice and read avidly. We questioned robustly and talked with many on various 'dieting' regimes. What we found was radical, our story has to be told, our knowledge has to be shared. So If you are ready to stop blaming your self for being overweight and ready to change your approach to weight loss then contact us and let’s get started!

Posted on February 13, 2012, in Diet Myths and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I have replaced sugary snacks like muffins, cake, cookies and chocolate with bananas, apples and natural yoghurt. I do not experience the same sugar high/sugar lows when eating fruit and yoghurt that I experienced when eating sugary junk food. Fibrous fruits like apples and pears are great for someone like me who was barely eating any fibre. The muffins I snacked on were 500 calorie monsters laden with sugar and bad fats. I actually find an apple to be more satisfying than a muffin over a couple of hours. I’m not having any trouble losing weight eating three serves of fruit a day.

  2. Although 5 a day is certainly not the ideal and most whole heartedly recommended nutritional catch cry, it is however so much better than the absolute majority of rubbish and food/drink with no nutritional value that the general population continue to feed on! 🙂
    Sugar, as always seems to be the biggest contributor of obesity and other diet related illnesses and it should come as no surprise that the cavemen talked about on the Paleo diet did NOT have sugar and hence did NOT have any of these sugar related conditions. Go the Paleo!

  3. People I know who are diabetic have always been told go easy on the fruit, but only diabetics. I don’t know anyone else who has been told the amount of sugars that fruit contains. Thanks for the links to check out.

  4. KaayaFitnessKoach

    This is a super interesting post, mainly because I believed wholeheartedly in that concept. I will have to do more research on this. Thanks for the great info!!!

  5. This post has made me think twice, my professional background in sport/physical activity dev and management has been based around promoting 5 a day as a lifestyle change. It definitely does make you think why do we promote 5 a day in the UK if we don’t know the evidence behind it. As a lifestyle advisor and MI practitioner I know the research and evidence behind physical activity, behaviour change etc. I will find out more on this when time permits, thanks for the thought provoking post!

  6. Now this post is really interesting and even more because we have the same campaign in Denmark and it has been going on for two decades. BUT in Denmark the slogan is “6 every day” – playing with the number 6 as it is pronounced the same way as ‘sex’. (Guess sex has to be included to make people listen…)

    So reading your post, I can conclude that this basically means that National health board in Denmark chose the number 6 as it was more suitable for the campaign slogan?! And now scientist are saying that we shold moderate the intake of fruits….now that’s really derailing the consumers…

    Thank you for the post!!

    I ❤ fabulous.

  7. This is of great interest to me because I spend a lot of time in the Gambia, alongside communities that are poor but not starving. I have noticed that heir meals contain little in the way of fruit and veg.

    Bananas, mangos and oranges all grow readily and are widely available, but they are not served up as part of the daily diet. In the area I visit, by the coast, dinner is usually fish and rice, and kids grow well on it. Their sufferings are more due to malaria and TB than to malnutrition.

    I would be interested to know what you think of the inclusion of so much rice as a staple?

  8. The fruit consumption recommendation is totally incorrect for a type-II diabetic and for many other medical conditions. That amount of sugar load is NOT healthy for anyone in my humble opinion.
    Why do we believe the ADA anyway? These people are nothing but shills for pharmaceutical companies.

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