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Britons eat fewer greens than rest of Europe

Ingrid Torjesen

Monday, 16 January 2012

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People in Britain eat less fruit and vegetables than those in most other European nations, a European study has found.

An analysis of eating habits in 19 EU countries by the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) put Britain in 14th place in terms of consumption of fruit and vegetables.

The EUFIC analysis found that people in Britain eat an average of 258g (9.1oz) of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with a European average of 386g (13.6oz). This means that people in Britain are falling far short of the 400g (14.1oz) minimum consumption recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Only four European countries were found to be meeting the WHO recommended target. These were Poland (577g), Italy (452g), Germany (442g) and Austria (413g).

In general the report found that people in southern European countries had a higher intake of fruit and vegetables compared with people in northern Europe.

Data from governments were used for the research and the report acknowledges that the definition of fruit and vegetables varies between countries with, for example, some nations including potatoes and fruit juice as fruit and vegetables whereas other do not. 

An analysis by the European Union (EU) in 1997 estimated that 8.3% of all disease in the EU could be linked to inadequate nutrition and 3.5 % to low intakes of fruit and vegetables in particular. Most of the benefit of consuming fruit and vegetables is related to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, but fruit and vegetables may also reduce the risk of certain cancers.

The WHO has estimated that insufficient intake of fruit and vegetables causes around 14% of gastrointestinal cancer deaths, about 11% of ischaemic heart disease deaths and about 9% of stroke deaths worldwide.

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