Nearly two thirds of people across the UK are failing to eat the recommended five daily portions of fruit and vegetables – according to research1 released today.

The Cancer Research UK survey of over 4,000 UK men and women showed that only 34 per cent of people said they were eating at least five portions of fruit and veg a day.

The regional comparison of diets highlights a patchwork of eating habits. Higher proportions of people in the south, East Anglia and Wales are eating five or more a day, compared to the midlands, the north, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The breakdown shows the UK’s south-west region had the highest proportion of people eating five or more fruit and vegetables a day with 46 per cent reaching the target compared to 27 per cent in areas in the north and the midlands. The figure is even lower in Northern Ireland with only 17 per cent getting their five a day.

About one quarter of all cancer deaths are thought to be caused by unhealthy diets and obesity2. Diet affects the risk of many cancers including cancer of the stomach, bowel, mouth and the foodpipe.

A healthy diet reduces the risk of cancer as well as protecting against other conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity. A healthy diet contains at least five daily portions of fruit and vegetables, is based on starchy foods such as rice, wholegrain breads and cereals and is low is fat, sugar and salt.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information, said: “This lack of fruit and vegetables in the majority of diets across the UK is worrying. We know that the food we eat has a big influence on our health. We should all be eating more fruit and veg.”

Cancer Research UK and the charity Weight Concern have joined forces to develop a weight loss programme called the Ten Top Tips. These 10 simple and easy to follow tips have been designed to fit into daily life and are based on the best scientific evidence. One of the tips is to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day using a range of advice to help hit the target, such as having a glass of unsweetened fruit juice.

Charlene Shoneye, Weight Concern’s specialist dietitian, said: “These results are a cause for concern. We know that eating a diet high in fruit and vegetables can reduce the risk of cancers, aid weight loss and help prevent obesity but we are still not eating enough.

“Practical ideas like the Ten Tops Tips programme can help you to incorporate healthy lifestyle habits into your daily routine. For example, take a piece of fruit to work so that you have it with you for a snack. And remember that your fruit or vegetable portions can be fresh, frozen, dried or canned so it needn’t be expensive.”


For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300, or the out of hours duty press officer on 07050 264059.


  1. BMRB face to face survey of 4278 people from across the UK.
  2. Doll, R. and R. Peto, Epidemiology of Cancer. Oxford Textbook of Medicine, ed. D. Warrell, et al. 2003, Oxford: OUP.

Responses to the question: Thinking about last week, how many portions of fruit and vegetables did you eat each day on average?

Total in sample: 4,278

Portions a day
Less than 5 5 or more
London 61% 39%
South East 61% 39%
South West 54% 46%
Wales 63% 37%
East Anglia 61% 39%
East Midlands 73% 27%
West Midlands 70% 30%
Yorks/Humb 73% 27%
North West 69% 31%
North 72% 28%
Scotland 69% 31%
Northern Ireland 83% 17%
UK 66% 34%

Visit to request a free leaflet containing the Ten Top Tips programme. You will find more information about the Ten Top Tips and further healthy choices that could reduce your risk of cancer.

About Cancer Research UK

  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to beat cancer.

  • Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.
  • Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.
  • Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.

About Weight Concern

Weight Concern is a UK charity committed to researching and developing effective, evidence-based treatments for childhood and adult obesity. The charity also provides education and training for health professionals in techniques to help support people who want to control their weight.

Weight Concern has a leading reputation in the field of overweight and obesity and is staffed by clinical psychologists, clinical and research dietitians and behavioural experts.

For further information about Weight Concern’s work, please visit our website or contact us by e-mail [email protected].

Please note we are unable to provide individual weight loss advice.