Why 5 daily vegetable portions has become 10?

Eating 10 portions of fruit and vegetables as opposed to 5 boosts life expectancy and reduces heart disease and cancer risk.
07 March 2017

Interview with 

Aimee Eckert, University of Sussex


Bowl of fruit


A new study carried out by Imperial College London and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology suggests that eating 10 portions of fruit and vegetables leads to an increase in life expectancy and a reduction in heart disease and cancer risk. Biologist Aimee Eckert, from the University of Sussex, explains the work to Chris...

Aimee - So there’s been a heck of a lot of confusion over how exactly much fruit and veg we should all eat and if any particular types were especially beneficial because a lot of companies like to use the health benefits of vegetables for marketing so-called superfoods and what have you.

What this group of researchers did, they did something really cool, it’s called a meta-analysis. That’s basically pooling a lot of similar studies together in order to really detect benefits or harms of different things. So in this particular instance, looking for if there’s any real benefit of eating more fruit and veg, and they found that eating more fruit and veg was beneficial up to a point. And they found that, overall, eating up to 800 grams of vegetables a day, so that’s the equivalent of maybe ten portions. Or another way to visualise 800 grams is about the size of a loaf of bread. That much vegetable a day provided the maximum possible benefit against heart disease, cancer, and general mortality, but any more than that made no real difference to mortality.

So eating more fruit and vegetables is good but that that benefit doesn’t increase exponentially. So if you eat kilos of vegetables you’re not going to live forever.

Chris - Is it that if you say eat five, people will eat two? If you say ten, you have a half chance that maybe people will eat enough?

Aimee - Yes. I think one of the intimidating things for me is I get confused about what a potion is. A potion is maybe less vegetables than you might imagine. I often envision piles of broccoli when I hear headlines like oh you must eat ten portions of fruit and veg, but 80 grams might not be too much. It could be that I’m a massive fan of putting vegetables in my curry, or I’m a big fan of frozen peas, or the frozen vegetable section, for example.

Chris - I’m a big fan of shiraz. Can I include wine in my five a day - ten a day?

Aimee - I think so!


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