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What price life? – as low as 25 pence per day

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by Cancer Research UK | News

27 May 2002

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For just 25 pence a day – the price of a humble apple or orange – we Brits could cut the risk of dying early from cancer or other diseases by 20 per cent say Cancer Research UK.

Scientists studying lifestyle and diet in East Anglia have announced early findings that low blood levels of vitamin C – a marker of fruit and vegetable intake – are associated with greater mortality due to heart disease and strokes in men and women and some cancers in men. The low levels of vitamin C were related to lower intakes of fruit and vegetables.

And the results hold true regardless of people’s age, blood pressure or whether or not they’ve smoked.

The findings raise the possibility that increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in the diet might have a beneficial effect in preventing disease.

The news coincides with the launch of year two of a health campaign between Cancer Research UK and Tesco.

And the supermarket giant has pledged to spend millions promoting the Five A Day campaign to its 16 million customers in view of the substantial evidence that increasing intake of these foods may protect against many common cancers.

Other aspects of lifestyle such as physical activity have not yet been analysed in this very important study. While this vital research continues, and is expanded to other countries, it seems prudent to ensure that we have an adequate intake of fruit and vegetables.

The research is part of the ongoing European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) and aims to produce more detailed information than ever before on the link between diet and cancer. The study is a collaboration between researchers in ten European countries and involves over half a million people. In the UK, core support is provided in two centres: Cambridge and Oxford.

Professor Kay-Tee Khaw, one of the Principal Investigators says: “The findings indicate that modest increases in fruit and vegetable intake of just one or two servings a day may be associated with large benefits for health.”

While further research is necessary to show how much is needed to achieve full benefit, the Five A Day promotion is a sensible and practical approach towards healthy eating.

The consistent recommendations from many expert groups such as COMA in the UK and the American Cancer Society have been further supported by these recent findings from EPIC, one of the major funders of which is Cancer Research UK.

Peter Fry, Tesco’s Director for Fresh Produce, says: “Over the past few years we have invested in the future health of our customers by cutting millions off the cost of eating our fruit and vegetables.

“By keeping prices low and affordable and actively promoting the Five A Day message we can encourage customers to improve their diet and protect the long-term health of their families.”

From today Tesco will be promoting the Five A Day message in the majority of its 700 UK-wide stores and a leaflet providing customers with information on the campaign is also widely available.

“We are delighted to be working with Cancer Research UK and have a number of innovative projects in the pipeline to really hit home the 5-a-day message.”

This explains why eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is recommended and could help reduce cancer. Suggestions on how to incorporate five a day into your daily diet, and what makes a serving are also included.

Sir Paul Nurse, Interim Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, says: “These early results are promising and add to the growing evidence that increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables that we eat may have a protective effect from cancer. Cancer Research UK is committed to further research in this area through EPIC and other studies. We are also working to encourage everyone to increase their fruit and veg intake and to aim for Five A Day.”