The Five-A-Day Fruits And Vegetables Myth

My salad days, when I was green in judgment, cold in blood …

— William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra (1606)

The following might be a little difficult for you to swallow, but I make no apologies: here at we aim to pulverize all the myths, one slab of baloney at a time.

My good friend Dave (“The Cock”) Cochrane, from across the pond, was kind enough to send me this article, which recently appeared in the Daily Mail Online:

With great fanfare, it was reported last week that the current health advice about eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is outdated, and that scientists now believe that eight portions is more beneficial.

While many people grumbled about how on earth they would manage those extra portions, I ­allowed myself a wry smile.

For more than two years I’ve known that the ‘five-a-day’ mantra we’re all so familiar with is nothing but a fairytale.

Of course, they are tasty, colourful additions to any meal. But in terms of health and nutrition, fruit and veg have little to offer, and telling us to eat eight portions a day is compounding one of the worst health fallacies in recent history.

Surprised? Many people will be, and no doubt some dieticians and nutritionists will reject my arguments. But science backs me up.

The latest findings come from a European study into diet and health looking at 300,000 people in eight countries.

It found that people who ate eight or more portions of fresh food a day had a 22 per cent lower chance of dying from heart disease. Yet just 1,636 participants died during the study from heart disease, which is about half of one per cent.

Out of that very small proportion, fewer people died from the group that ate more fruit and veg.

However, the researchers cautioned that these people may have healthier lifestyles generally. They may be less likely to smoke; they may eat less processed food; they may be more active.

What we should not do is to make the usual bad science leap from association to causation and say ‘eating more fruit and veg lowers the risk of dying from heart disease’.

This survey comes not long after another large study, which examined half a million people over eight years, reported that fruit and veg offer no protection against breast, prostate, bowel, lung or any other kind of tumour. Those eating the most fruit and veg showed no difference in cancer risk compared with those ­eating the least.

So how have we been duped for so long?

You might assume our five-a-day ­fixation is based on firm evidence. But you’d be wrong.

It started as a marketing campaign dreamt up by around 20 fruit and veg ­companies and the U.S. National Cancer Institute at a meeting in California in 1991. And it’s been remarkably successful.

People in 25 countries, across three continents, have been urged to eat more greens, and have done so in their millions, believing it was good for them.

No doubt it was set up with the best intentions — to improve the health of the nation and reduce the incidence of cancer. But there was no evidence that it was doing us any good at all.

Read the full article here.

And remember: It’s an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.


  • Lorne Barr

    January 28, 2011

    Billy Shakes is such a hack. That quote you toss around is actually from Sarek and if memory serves it reads “My salad days, when I was cold in judgment, green in blood”

    Stay golden

  • Redmond

    January 28, 2011

    All I have to say is

    “Wash, Rinse, Repeat”

  • Nick

    January 28, 2011


    I think this article is like 99% of everything you read on the internet: “You’re all being duped! I’m the only one who knows the truth!”

    (See: “Loose Change” if you need the perfect example.)

    Eating eight portions a day of anything sucks (except Evan Williams,) but saying that fruits and vegetables are useless? That’s ridiculous. She contradicts herself in her own article.

    To point:

    “But in terms of health and nutrition, fruit and veg have little to offer…”

    And yet she says later:

    “But essential minerals…”

    “Essential?” If they’re essential, eat some fucking fruits and vegetables. They’re full of minerals.

    And look at her list of foods to eat. Sunflower seeds and green vegetables.

    In summary and in keeping with the post’s theme, this is much ado about nothing.

    What’s her next article going to be, “Eating 19 portions of meat and sunflower seeds is bad for you?”

    Methinks thou dost is a fucking douchebag, douchebag.

  • Ray

    January 29, 2011

    Lorne, if you click on Nick’s name, you’ll see that by and large he agrees with you about “Billy Shakes.”

    Wash, rinse, repeat. Stay golden, child.

    Thank you for dropping by.

  • stephanie

    February 1, 2011

    This just hurts my brain.

    And how much weight does the public give to the opinion of Zoe Harcombe (diet-guru for hire) compared to, say, Dr. Raymond Bernard who advocated fruitarianism?

    Because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry.

  • Ray

    February 2, 2011

    Hi Stephanie! I don’t know the answer to your question, but it’s very good to see you again, hurt brain or not.

    Thank you for dropping by.

  • Dave "The Cock" Cochrane

    February 19, 2011

    Have to say, I did take some of these claims with a pinch of salt. But then, I’ve always liked salt.

    But the important thing I took away from it was the finding that the old studies which purported to show a causal link between a lack of fresh fruit and veg and an increased risk of serious illness, were bullshit. Just another example of scientifically flawed studies with a pre-determined outcome, funded by special interest groups and shoved down our throats by the State.

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