Doctor, doctor, if I eat 20 portions of fruit and veg a day, will I ever die?

This is a serious question with economic consequences for the planet

Share

Let me see if I’ve got this straight. If I eat five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables a day, I’ll live longer. But if I eat seven 80g portions of fruit and vegetables a day, I’ll live longer still. I forget how much longer I was going to live when I was on five 80g portions – that’s history now, anyway – but under this new regimen of seven 80g portions of fruit and vegetables a day, I’ll reduce my risk of dying of heart disease by 31 per cent and my risk of dying of cancer by 25 per cent which ought to mean I’ve increased my chance of living longer by a total of 56 per cent. But that’s 56 per cent of what? Don’t I need to know at what age I was going to die when I wasn’t eating any 80g portions of fruit and vegetables before I can reliably calculate the age I am likely to live to now that I am eating seven?

Or am I simply being measured against someone else – say, you, reader, if you aren’t eating the number of vegetables I am? Am I chalking off the years I’ve got left against the years you haven’t? It’s not pleasant to think we are competing for life, but that’s been the way of it ever since we raced one another out of the primeval soup. At least then, however, we just pushed one another back in and beat our chests. We didn’t crow over grams and percentages. Today I can’t see anyone peeling an apple without wondering how much longer than me he’s got.

But let’s suppose – to keep you out of it – that I increase the number of portions of fruit and vegetables I eat a day to 15 or 20. And let’s suppose further that I up the dosage from 80g to 100g or even 150g. After the rough equivalent of 30 bananas, 25 tomatoes, four turnips and two nosebags of swedes daily, could it be that I’m looking at eternal life? This is a serious question with significant demographic and economic consequences for the planet: is it now becoming possible for us to eat our way to immortality?

There was a time when all but the rich could be relied upon to scoff themselves into an early grave. In working-class Manchester, we spooned gravy jugs of grease on to everything we ate at home, and ordered extra of every extra at every restaurant we went to. We couldn’t eat chicken curry without an accompaniment of poppadums, rotis, chapatis, stuffed naans, rice, raitas, bhajis, saags, paneers, okra, and Bombay potatoes, and we couldn’t eat Singapore noodles without a side dish of Singapore noodles.

By curry I mean the first curry of the evening, which we usually put away after getting back from school and before hitting the Ritz. The real curry – the vindaloo we ate between midnight and two in the morning, depending on how the Ritz had gone – came as an extra to itself. We were growing boys. Our mothers were always telling us we looked thin. Hence the cheese and pickle sandwiches they stuffed into our satchels to supplement school lunch which they knew, without seeing it, to be inadequate. In percentage terms, I’d say my chance then of living to the age I am now was 56 per cent less, but don’t ask me 56 per cent less than what, or how much further the remaining 44 per cent is going to get me.

If I take more care of myself now, it’s as much because there’s no one left not to take care of myself with as because I want to live for ever. The fun’s gone. I occasionally see a few of the friends I used to drink wine with, but we spend the first half of the evening trying to decide whether we’ll manage to get through a whole bottle between the five of us and, since we know we won’t, whether to go for a small carafe or push the boat out and order three glasses which we’ll divvy up. And even then there’s always one of us who’ll want to check that the alcohol content doesn’t exceed 11.5 per cent, each half a per cent being equivalent to a year of what’s left to us of lives that some would say are no longer worth living.

Smoking’s gone the same way, of course, and even yoghurt’s not the wild indulgence of old. Like everybody else, I went for Greek yoghurt whenever it was it became fashionable, but then came the warnings and I changed to low-fat yoghurt until that turned out to have too much sugar in it, which suddenly made Greek yoghurt all right again, provided it was low-fat Greek yoghurt (which meant it didn’t taste like Greek yoghurt), though here again there was a threat, this time in the form of calcium, too many milligrams of which can reduce your life expectancy by the number of years you’ve saved by not eating full-fat yoghurt.

And now I read that the Government is issuing guidelines to restaurants on how big portions should be, in order to reduce the gross weight of the population – a problem that could have been averted had that same population been allowed to die off naturally, as in the old days, as a consequence of all those naans and rotis and never eating a vegetable. How long before someone in the Department of Health wakes up to the fact that the healthier they make us the longer we will live (up by 56 per cent as I write), and the longer we live, the more rubbish we will want to eat?

We face longer, bleaker lives anyway, with less salt in our salted cod, less fat in our fatty chips, less dough and diameter to our pizza bases and therefore less of the loaded, sloppy toppings that those of us who love pizzas love them for. If it wasn’t for the danger I face on a daily basis from mad cyclists – and I only mention this to wind up the mad cyclists who routinely write me hate mail – I’d say I’ve every chance of making it to 150. Time enough to consume about a million and half grams of fruit and vegetable, though I wouldn’t trust my maths.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits