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EDITIONS
 Monday, 20 January, 2003, 15:26 GMT
Millions ignore healthy eating advice
Just one in eight children eat enough fruit
Just one in four people eat enough fruit and vegetables to protect themselves from cancer and other serious diseases.

The figure is even lower for young people - just one in five eat the recommended five portions each day.

The annual Health Survey for England also reveals a strong link between healthy eating and household income.

What is a portion?
A medium apple or banana (80g)
A bowl of mixed salad (80g)
3 tablespoons of peas or carrots (80g)
Any amount of 100% fruit or vegetable juice (only once a day)
Any amount of haricot, butter, soya or kidney beans or chick peas (only once a day)
Any amount of green beans
Any amount of 100% concentrated puree (only once a day)

Women in the highest earning homes are twice as likely to eat five portions a day compared to those in the poorest.

The findings are based on interviews with over 15,600 adults and nearly 4,000 children across England carried out by the National Centre for Social Research.

Age gaps

The survey suggests women generally eat more fruit and vegetables than men and are more likely to eat five portions a day.

Older people are also much more likely to follow the government's advice compared to younger people.

One in three people between the ages of 55 and 64 said they ate five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

This compares to just one in five of those aged between 16 and 24 and just one in eight children between the age of five and 15.

Overall, people are much more likely to eat fruit than vegetables. According to the survey, women eat 3.7 portions per day while men eat 3.4 portions.

This is despite the fact that three out of four women and almost half of men said they knew they should eat five portions.

However, the survey shows that money is an issue when it comes to eating healthily. Almost 40% of women in the highest earning households eat five portions a day. This compares to just 20% in the poorest households.

The government has stepped up efforts to get people to eat more fruit and vegetables, as a way of cutting deaths from heart disease, cancer and other conditions.

Earlier this month, ministers spelt out how much fruit or vegetables constitute a single portion amid fears that some people were confused.

The Department of Health will also launch a new trademark for foods that qualify as one portion.

Food advice

Thomas Lober, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, urged Britons to eat more fruit and vegetables.

"Changes to our diet could help prevent up to a third of all cancers in the UK.

"Britons are notoriously bad at eating enough vegetables and fruit.

"This survey highlights the fact that we urgently need to catch up with our Southern European neighbours in getting into the '5 a day' habit to help protect us from cancer and other serious illnesses."

The Food and Drink Federation welcomed the survey.

Martin Paterson, its deputy director general, said: "It's good news that many people know the five-a-day messages but the challenge for government and industry is to turn this into action on people's lifestyle."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Dr Evan Harris urged the government to take action.

"The situation described in these statistics is bleak. We all know that too many children have little option but to eat unhealthy meals, particularly at school.

"The 'five a day' campaign is in the right direction, but the government must have a long term, joined up, and properly funded approach to promoting good public health."

See also:

03 Dec 02 | Health
27 May 02 | Health
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