Healthy living

Healthy diet could save 33,000 lives a year

Sticking to a healthy Five fruit and veg a day has biggest impact

Around 33,000 deaths each year could be prevented if everyone in the UK ate their five-a-day and stuck to the recommended levels for salt and fat consumption, new research suggests.

Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day would prevent more than 7,000 deaths a year from coronary heart disease, nearly 5,000 from cancer, and 3,400 from stroke, adding up to more than 15,000 preventable deaths a year, researchers at Oxford University estimated.

Another 4,000 annual deaths could be prevented by sticking to the recommended guidelines on dietary fibre, while those on fats and salt would each save another 7,000 lives.

The researchers based their findings on national data for the years 2005 to 2007 for all four UK countries and used a computer model to work out the effect of diet on heart disease, cancers and stroke.

Currently we are all advised to eat five portions of fruit and veg (440g); no more than six grams of salt; 18g of fibre; and a third of total energy should come from fats, with saturated fat comprising 10 per cent of this.

Currently, it's estimated that only a third of people in the UK manage to eat their five-a-day.

The findings are published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Study leader Dr Peter Scarborough said the number of deaths could be reduced further if the current recommendations on salt and saturated fat levels were also reduced, providing people followed them.

He said: "Meeting dietary recommendations would have a massive effect on the health of the nation. According to our model, the biggest impact would be eating more fruit and veg.

“This doesn’t mean you should just stop at five – the more the better. In some European countries like Greece and Italy they get to five a day easily. Adding fruit and veg into your daily diet is achievable for everyone.”

This article was published on Thu 16 December 2010

Image © NataliTerr -

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