05 November 2004


Here's another example of a research study that might confuse most people regarding the benefits of including fruits and vegetables in the diet.

A recent study by Harvard researchers involving more than 100,000 subjects found that there was

".... no link between cancer risk and the consumption of fruits and vegetables. In other words, eating more fruit and vegetables does not protect you from getting cancer.

They (however) found that people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables have a significantly lower risk of developing heart disease."

[Medical News Today]

The study says veggies and fruits are good for the heart but is useless against cancer.

Because of this, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), which describes itself as one of America's "largest cancer charities," and which focuses solely on the "the link between diet and cancer," issued a press statement saying:

"....the authors' finding in regard to cancer contradicts the preponderance of scientific evidence published to date. The landmark AICR Expert Panel Report, Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a global perspective, examined over 4,500 studies and concluded that evidence linking diets high in fruits and vegetables with lower risk for cancer was 'convincing.'

To the millions of Americans who are deeply concerned about reducing their risk of getting cancer, we want to say this: This is only one study, with all the weaknesses inherent to its kind. It is contradicted by literally hundreds of earlier studies. Do not let this single study discourage you from striving to increase the proportion of vegetables and fruit in your meals and snacks. When all of the results are in, eating a plant-based diet, increasing physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight will remain the three most important things you can do to stop cancer before it starts."

[AICR Press Corner]

In essence, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is saying that the Harvard study is not conclusive and is going against the findings of thousands of other studies linking vegetable and fruit consumption with a lower incidence of cancer.

As a layman, you might wonder, who's telling the truth?

When researchers' perceptions collide, what does a common person do?

Study carefully what each side is saying. In this case, I tend to agree more with AICR statement. It might be too sweeping to say that eating vegetables and fruits do not help at all in the fight against cancer when numerous studies show otherwise.

In fairness to the researchers, they offered explanations to their puzzling results and the JNCI's editorial gave possible sources of errors:

  • Cancer risk might be increased only in people who eat few fruits and vegetables.

  • Cancer usually develops longer than heart disease. As such, it can be safely assumed that it may take longer for a protective association from higher fruits and vegetable consumption to be noticed.

  • The study results did not preclude protective effects of specific vegetables. The study found that eating broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage was associated lower rates of bladder cancer in men.

[JNCI Editorial, Nov 3 2004]

Eat your fruits and veggies, everyone!

Five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables per day is the ideal.

Eat those apples and broccoli!

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