N° 89 | May 2014

« F&V consumption and life expectancy in Europe »

Editorial

Increase availability, affordability and consumption of fruit and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are key elements of a healthy diet, and intakes vary considerably between countries, refl ecting diverse economic, cultural and agricultural environments

Fruit and vegetable and noncommunicable diseases

Low fruit and vegetable intake is among the 10 risk factors contributing to mortality and morbidity, according to the Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases 2013-2020. The health benefi ts of fruit and vegetable (F&V) consumption are signifi cant and widely documented. According to reports from the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, daily consumption of fi ve servings, or a minimum of 400 grams (excluding potatoes and other starchy tubers), of F&V helps in the prevention of NCD, as well as for the prevention and alleviation of several micronutrient deficiencies.

Alarming data of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition –EPIC study (http://epic.iarc.fr/) show that this recommendation is not achieved in many countries. The data also display a south–north gradient in the mean intake of fruit and vegetables in both genders, ranging from an intake below recommendations in the northern countries (below 250 g per day for Swedish men) to a high intake in the Mediterranean countries (over 700 g per day for men from Murcia, Spain). Of particular concern are unhealthy diets including low fruit and vegetable consumption, inadequate physical activity and energy imbalances in children and adolescents.

Key policies

The Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicale diseases (2013-2020) as well as the Vienna Declaration on Nutrition and Noncommunicable Diseases in the Context of Health 2020 emphasize an increase in the availability, affordability, sustainability and consumption of fruit and vegetables. These framework documents addresse the main public health challenges in the area of nutrition, dealing with diet-related noncommunicable diseases. They underline the importance of ensuring a safe, healthy and sustainable food supply by specifi c actions such as improving the availability and affordability of fruit and vegetables through the revision of agricultural policies; providing technical advice and market incentives for local horticulture, including urban horticulture; reducing trade barriers to imports; and ensuring a reduced risk of pesticide residues. In addition to the above priority areas, the special needs of vulnerable groups in society, including elderly, children and immigrants, must be not be forgotten. Also, the need for workforce development in the public health workforce by including NCD prevention in the set of core competencies of the professional public health training is vitally important.

These key actions will facilitate an increase in the availability, affordability, sustainability and consumption of fruit and vegetables.

João Breda
Directeur du Programme Nutrition, activité physique et obésité - Division des maladies non-transmissibles et cycle de vie – Bureau Régional de l’OMS pour l’Europe - DANEMARK
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