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Eating Fruits, Vegetables has a Minor Impact on Cancer Prevention, Study Says

By Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger
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For more than two decades American and international health organizations have promoted eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day as a way to prevent cancer by as much as 50 to 70 percent. A new study says the impact is much less, only about four per cent.

The eight-year study took place in 10 European countries between from 1992 to 2000. Participants ate about 400 grams of fruits and vegetables a day and the results show the diets had only a minor effect against developing cancer.

Published in the current issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the study found ''no conclusive evidence'' of a link between cancer and fruit and vegetables.The authors found a small inverse association between high intake of fruits and vegetables and reduced overall cancer risk. Vegetable consumption also afforded a modest benefit but was restricted to women. Heavy drinkers who ate many fruits and vegetables had a somewhat reduced risk, but only for cancers caused by smoking and alcohol. The authors caution against attributing any risk reduction to diet and they conclude that any cancer protective effect of these foods is likely to be modest, at best.

"In this population, a higher intake of fruits and vegetables was also associated with other lifestyle variables, such as lower intake of alcohol, never-smoking, short duration of tobacco smoking, and higher level of physical activity, which may have contributed to a lower cancer risk," they write.

During the 1990s health professionals and government officials started campaigns to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk of many cancers. In 1991 the National Cancer Institute adopted the Five-A-Day program which promoted increasing the average consumption of fruits and vegetables to at least five servings a day. People with family histories of cancer were told these diets could help prevent their chances of getting cancer by as much as 50 percent. Cancer patients were taught to eat more fruits and vegetables to support their recovery.

In recent years those recommendations have been questioned in several studies.

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EmpowHER Guest

Great Article Pat! Would like to point out that one of the flaws in the study is that it failed to distinguish or break out results for different types of cancer. Cancer is hundreds, if not thousands, of diseases. The development of certain cancers (i.e., colorectal, prostate, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, etc.) has been shown to be impacted by fruit and vegetable intake (and that of other anti-oxidants such as green tea as well). Diet is not such a big factor in some other cancers. By combining the data from all cancers, the findings tend to cancel each other out, giving you the kind of neutral to modest results this study finds.

In addition to affecting incidence of cancer, the intake of fruit and vegetable before diagnosis was found to have a very significant impact on outcomes in non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. Those who consumed higher amounts of green leafy vegetables and citrus were found to have a 29% and 27% reduction in death rate in a recent Yale/New Haven Study.

April 8, 2010 - 10:00pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.