'Five a day' advice should be reconsidered because fruit and vegetables are too expensive, GP's chief says

A healthy diet costs three times as much as an unhealthy one, research has found

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The Government should stop advising people to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day because it is demoralising for those who cannot afford to do so, the chair of the Royal College of GPs has said.

The guidance was officially adopted in 2003 in an attempt to improve diets and boost the vitamin intake of the population.

But the high price of fruit and vegetables makes it “really, really hard” for people on low incomes to meet the target, Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard told The Observer.

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“It’s expensive to have five-a-day,” she told the newspaper, adding that unrealistic targets should be revised as they can demoralise people unable to reach them.

A healthy diet costs three times as much as eating junk food, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge who analysed the changes in the price of different foods between 2002 and 2012.

They found the price of healthy food, like tinned tomatoes and semi-skimmed milk had risen more sharply in price than less healthy foods like frozen pizza and ice cream, and was three times more expensive on average per calorie.

Lawrence Haddad, executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, told The Independent he didn’t think the five-a-day target should be scrapped.

“I am mindful of the demoralisation argument and I think there is some validity to that. But if you give up on the goal, you’re kind of admitting defeat,” he said.

“I’m not convinced that [people] can’t afford the five fruits and vegetables, I haven’t seen solid evidence for that.

There are lots of different fruits and vegetables out there and it doesn’t mean your five fruits and vegetables have to be very expensive ones.”

Mr Haddad said supermarkets should drop restrictions on irregularly-shaped vegetables and could sell them at a reduced price, as they have the same nutritional value as “perfect”-looking ones.

He also said more agricultural research funding should be used to increase the efficiency of fruit and vegetables production, and that more could be done to promote healthy-eating habits.

“There’s scope for lots of creativity for making fruits and vegetables attractive and desirable,” he said. “Celebrity chefs could be doing a lot to make boring stuff more attractive.”

Dr Stokes-Lampard last week became chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, which represents 50,000 GPs in the UK.

She also told The Observer smokers should sometimes be encouraged to cut down instead of quitting altogether and that official alcohol guidelines for men and women to drink a maximum of 14 units a week, could be seen as too strict.

Only one third of the UK population consumes more than five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, according to Eurostat.