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Fruit and veg: do they prevent cancer?

Thursday 16 December, 2010 by Laura

The amount of information out there about diet is overwhelming, and often contradictory. Is eating bacon and eggs for breakfast every day – à la the Atkins Diet – really a good idea? Can goji berries actually help me be more energetic and lose five kilos in two weeks? It's hard to tell the facts from fiction.

The media is awash with information about diet, what to eat and what not to eat, food fads, how to be thinner and the lifestyle risks associated with having a poor diet. It's hard to wade through the information available and make any sense of it. But it is great that we are interested in diet and health issues, as overweight and obesity is a growing problem in Australia, no pun intended.

Eating fruit and veggies is an important part of maintaining a healthy diet, it reduces the risk of becoming overweight or obese and therefore helps reduces the risk of developing cancer. It's not just a hot topic for the public and the press – there is a vast amount of research going on right now.

As far back as the 1970s we've been hearing about the benefits of eating fruits and veg and from the 90s onwards ‘two and five-a-day' became a common health promotion phrase. Back in 2003, the World Health Organization announced that frequent consumption of fruit and veg may reduce the risk of developing cancers of the mouth, throat, lung, oesophagus, stomach, colon and cervix.

The British Journal of Cancer has recently published a paper on fruit and vegetables and cancer risk. This found little, if any, connection between eating fruits and vegetables and reducing your risk of developing cancer. It didn't find that they were in any way harmful, but just not as protective as believed in the past.

The review of a decade of research, involving more than a million people, found that eating lots of fruit and veggies doesn't provide protection from developing cancer. But it's important to remember that this is only one study. Another study released in February this year of 521,448 men and women, over eight years to 2010 found different results. Although there has been a slight weakening of the evidence supporting the role of fruit and vegetables in reducing the risk of some cancers, overall the evidence was suggestive of a protective effect. Fruit and vegetables appear to protect against cancers of the digestive tract, such as cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach and bowel. Fruit may also protect against lung cancer.

While there are varying results on fruit and vegetables what we do know is there is a link between obesity and cancer – and eating fruit and veggies is an important step to maintaining a healthy weight.

Fruit and veggies are generally low in fat and kilojoules, high in fibre and fill you up way better than other high fat and sugary snacks like chips and chocolate.

So check out our tips on how to maintain a healthy diet on the how to cut your risk section of our website.

The importance of eating a healthy diet shouldn't be overlooked. So don't throw out your 101 ways with bananas cookbook just yet.


So, chocolate is a vegetable, right?

From: Jen, 15/04/2013

Even if fruit and veges don't prevent cancer, at least they don't contribute to it like junk food!

From: Kate, 15/04/2013

Fruit and vegies build the immune system and keep our bodies alkline, which will stop nearly all forms of cancer. Coles and woolies are serving us acidic food that are all processed which cause cancer. Dairy and meat are acidic and should not be eaten or in a very small quantity. I know you won't blog this

From: Stuart, 16/09/2013

So meats can prevent us from getting cancer? Oh yea! Thats great! I can eat a lot of meats!

From: Yvonne, 01/06/2014

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