We are all sick and need fruit, veg and exercise

We all know that if you eat 5 servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day you will live for ever. You will never get cancer, heart disease, obesity or excess belly-button fluff.

I know this because my government told me this, they spent my tax on telling me this, and they wouldn't be wrong would they?

It is of course a rhetorical question.

Currently the Australian Nanny State decided that I was overweight, I was told that 50% of Australians are overweight, and not being very skinny anymore I guess that makes me overweight!

Despite the fact that Australians are now living over 80 years on average for the first time, we are all terrible sick. MeasureUp, a campaign of the Australian Nanny State is letting us all know just how sick we are - how we need to eat more fruit and veg and lose weight.

In their preliminary research that they scared us with

‘Women who gain more than 9 kilos from age 18 to midlife double their risk of
postmenopausal breast cancer, compared to women whose weight remains stable.’

The statement shocked many who thought this was quite astounding. In fact it was a bit astounding as, their own footnote attested to:

12 US Department of Human Services,
www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/obesity/calltoaction/fact_consequences. NB: other studies
show a less strong correlation with a greater gain in weight (see Journal of the American
Medical Association 2006;296:141). Caution should therefore be adopted in using facts on this
subject in advertising.

In other words, no other study has reproduced this result - it was most likely a statistical fluke!

But at least we know that if we stuff ourselves on fruit, we wont have any room to fit in evil fats and sugars (except yours truly who never eats kiwi-fruit without a good dollop of cream!)

According to MeasureUp

‘A healthy diet including enough fruit and vegetables can protect
against cancers of the liver, oesophagus, lung, stomach, colon
and rectum.’

Of course this is wonderful news, except it isn't supported be research:


A recent study questions whether the longstanding recommendation to eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables to reduce cancer risk may be overstated. In a report published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2004;96:1577–1584), Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health found that eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily had an impact on cardiovascular disease risk but not overall cancer incidence.

So maybe eating fruit and veges still protects against Heart Disease?

Well don't count on it, reading further on, you will note that those who managed to get their 5 and 2 down per day had a relative risk of 0.88. Ie that means that if your chance of dying from Heart Disease in the next ten years was 1.00%, eating your fruit and veges can reduce that risk to 0.88%. Of course this is assuming that the above relationship was causal and not confounded by something else.

Now I am a big fan of fruit and veges, they make up a large part of my diet along with full-fat meat, dairy and grains. They add wonderful textures and flavours and enjoyment to life. This is the real value that no study can quantify, but sadly, their value as a panacea of good health is not well founded.

This has not stopped the study writers from trying to salvage their super-hero status:

And in an editorial accompanying the study, Arthur Schatzkin, MD, DrPH, and Victor Kipnis, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute, note that the food questionnaires used to gauge people’s diets are subject to inaccuracies. If that’s the case, then it’s possible the protective effect on cardiovascular disease is even greater than the study showed and that there actually is an effect on cancer that the study couldn’t detect.

Of course, any innacuracies in the methods obviously worked against the fruit and veg - How?

The time frame of the study may also have disguised an effect of fruits and vegetables on cancer risk, Calle pointed out. Because cancer can take decades to develop, it may simply take longer follow-up to find a benefit.

Or, she said, it may be that what people ate more recently has more of an impact on heart disease, while diet at a younger age has more of an impact on cancer. The Harvard researchers only tracked what participants ate during the course of the study (a 12-14 year period), not during earlier periods of life.

Of course it is true that cancers take a while to develop, but are we to assume that people in the study who said they ate lots of fruit and veg, only began to do so at the time of the study and not earlier in their lives?
Another possibility, Calle said, is that the study masked any protective effect on cancer by looking at all cancers combined, rather than specific cancers.

"Cancers are very different from one another, and risk factors for cancer are very different," she said. "If you looked at individual cancers you might see things that you don’t see with all cancers combined."

Willett also acknowledged that some fruits and vegetables may have an effect on some types of cancer.

"I think it is plausible that there are some components of fruits and vegetables that may modestly reduce the risk of some cancers, but lumping all fruits and vegetables together obscures the benefit," he said. "For example, we have seen evidence that a higher intake of tomato-based products may reduce the risk of prostate cancer."

This is an astounding admission. as we know that for all cancers there was no net result. But to assume that the fruit and veg did protect against some cancers surely means that there were other cancers that it must have encouraged (or was at least confoundingly associated with)? Is there a fault in my logic? If x+ y equals 10, then you cannot decrease x without increasing y? is that not logic?

So based on this - does it make sense to spend taxpayers money telling everyone to eat more vegetables? I suppose yes if you are trying to have a market-garden lead economic recovery!

After all this - I can only say, plant those broccoli and carrots, munch those grapes and cherries (in season of course). Not because they will save you from an early grave, but because you want to! Now after all that, I could do with a bowl of NZ imported Golden Kiwi Fruit smothered in cream - yummm!