For years we have been told that five portions of fruit and vegetables throughout the day effectively ‘keeps the doctor away’ but according to a study published on 31st March 2014, the five-a-day recommendation needs to be increased – maybe even doubled –  to prove effective.

Published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the accompanying editorial states that the findings pose the question “Is it perhaps now time for the UK to update the ‘five a day’ message to ‘10 a day’?”

These new findings may prove to be quite alarming for those that already struggle to consume the suggested five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – an even bigger mountain to climb in the quest to be healthy. Differing information and inaccurate statistics cause an infinite amount of confusion, especially on a topic that is as disputed and as important as health. But what does this new research actually say in regards to this matter?

Researchers from the University College London (UCL) examined the eating habits of 65,000 people in England between 2001 and 2013 and found that those who ate seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables daily had a 42 per cent reduced risk of death in comparison to those who managed just one.

Death is inevitable though I hear you say – yes it is BUT the same researchers found that eating seven pieces of fruit and vegetables a day reduces an individual’s risk of cancer by 25 per cent and heart disease by 31 per cent; this is if the fruit and vegetables are FRESH. Eating tinned / frozen fruit increases risk of these deadly diseases (according to the UCL research); Dr Oyinola Oyebode of UCL’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health stated “Most canned fruit contains high sugar levels and cheaper varieties are packed in syrup rather than fruit juice...the negative health impacts of the sugar may well outweigh any benefits.”

Fresh vegetables are the greatest source of protection against disease, followed by salad and lastly, fruit according to UCL researchers. Two to three daily portions of vegetables resulted in a 19 per cent lower risk of death among those studied – compared with 10 per cent for the same amount of fruit. The researchers suggest that taking a leaf out of Australia’s official health advice where the ‘two plus five’ (2 portions of fruit and five of vegetables) ratio is suggested could be a very sensible approach to adopt in the future.

The researchers were keen to make clear that a maximum recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables “could not easily be defined” and that the government’s current five-a-day suggestion “might provide a false reassurance and risk complacency” to those who think they are automatically protected if they consume five portions of the good stuff. Either way, the research concludes that the more fruit and vegetables we eat, the better – the exact amount though, proves to be inconclusive.

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