At present, only one in four adults in Britain eats five a day and among teenagers, it is just one in ten. Pic: Debbie Yazbek

London - Many of us feel we are doing well if we manage to eat our recommended five a day.

But now a study has found that if we want to enjoy a longer life, eating seven or more daily portions of fruit and veg is the way to do it.

The research has found that seven or more portions a day cuts the risk of dying prematurely by 42 percent compared with having one a day.

According to the research, raising consumption from five a day to seven cuts the chances of dying from cancer by 25 percent and from heart disease by 31 percent.

Some experts want the World Health Organisation’s guidelines advising us to eat five a day changed following the study by University College London (UCL).

But others believe moving the goalposts to seven will deter people from even trying to be healthier.

At present, only one in four adults in Britain eats five a day and among teenagers, it is just one in ten. Lead author Dr Oyinlola Oyebode of UCL, said: “The clear message here is the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age.”

Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said it was important to “examine seriously” raising guidelines to seven a day.

“It could send out a clear message that many of us need to try harder to eat fruit and veg,” he added.

The researchers followed 65 000 people aged 35 or over living in England between 2001 and 2013. The fruit and veg portion size recommended for adults is 80g and researchers asked the group how many 80g portions they had eaten in the previous 24 hours.

The risk of death was found to fall by 36 percent among those eating five to seven portions a day, while three to five reduced the risk by 29 percent. One to three portions was linked to a 14 percent reduced risk of death, says the study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The researchers asked the group whether they ate various categories of fruit and veg. They found that overall, the fresh vegetables category offered the most health benefits, followed by salad and then fruit.

Although frozen fruit and veg are considered by doctors to be as healthy as fresh, in this study they were included in a category with less healthy tinned fruit and veg.

The researchers said they took other lifestyle factors such as smoking into account as much as possible.

Brian Ratcliffe, professor of nutrition at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, said: “The people eating the highest levels of fruit and vegetables in this study were also likely to display other healthy characteristics such as lower prevalence of overweight, higher activity levels and fewer smokers.

“The call to increase the five a day advice seems a little premature considering most people do not achieve this target and the differences between five a day and seven a day in this study are small.”

Dr Nita Forouhi of the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, said: “It is too early to change the current five a day message on the basis of this study.” - Daily Mail