The importance of fruit and vegetable intake in a new context

This month the focus is on the value of fruit and vegetable intake when combatting the remarkable increase in the global burden of obesity. This epidemic is already overwhelming lower income countries as well as the more affluent with escalating rates of diabetes and all its associated life-threatening handicaps. Obesity’s later complications of cardiovascular disease and cancers are also already evident in Europe. Indeed, diet is now the top cause of the global burden of disease. So, obesity is now a fundamental societal and economic problem which cannot simply be tackled by children’s education and suggestions that adults need more exercise and dietary change because these are only modestly effective as highlighted by Darfour-Oduro et al. Bray notes that we don’t choose to be fat, so we need economic, regulatory and cross-government measures to shift our whole food supply and reduce car use. This will help the poorer sections of society even more than the wealthy as highlighted by Ancilotto and Olstad so that we eat differently and automatically exercise as a whole society.

We are still a long way from even approaching the integrated global policy goal which in 1990 we developed for WHO to prevent both chronic adult diseases, malnutrition and vitamin deficiency with a 400g per day minimum population average intake of fruit and vegetables – this is even more important now for the UN goals of sustainable development. So, Europe should really be leading the way with new integrated cross-country economic and regulatory measures to change our food supply.

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