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YOUR Better Health Update


NUTRITION: Protected by Fruit

Fruits and vegetables are filled with healthy nutrients including fibre and vitamins and are an essential part of any balanced diet, promoting better health as we age.

High fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked to various positive health outcomes including lower risk of chronic diseases and cancers. Some research has also shown an association between fruit and vegetable consumption and reduced risk of breast cancer, however, results from different studies are varied. Furthermore, whether or not consuming fruits and vegetables early in life is beneficial to lowering risk of breast cancer in adulthood is not well understood.

Researchers investigated the association between fruit and vegetable intake in adolescence and early adulthood and the risk of breast cancer. Data was analysed from the Nurses’ Health Study II, a study that’s been running since 1989 involving a large cohort of female registered nurses. Participants’ filled in food frequency questionnaires that included questions about their diet in high school and intake of fruits and vegetables during this time.

Their level of fruit and vegetable intake was classified into one of nine categories spanning from “never or less than once per month” to “six or more times per day”. The primary outcome assessed was the incidence of breast cancer. This was self-reported by participants or their next of kin and then medically verified for most cases via records and reports. Researchers also controlled for other risk factors for breast cancer including age, weight, family history of breast cancer, smoking status, menopausal status and oral contraceptive use.

The follow-up period spanned 22 years and showed that a higher total fruit intake in adolescence was associated with lower risk of breast cancer. This association was significant for postmenopausal breast cancer but not premenopausal breast cancer. The association between vegetable and fruit juice intake and breast cancer risk was not significant in this study.

Researchers flagged the bioactive components of fruits and vegetables, which might explain their protective qualities including carotenoids, vitamin C, flavonoids, fibre, magnesium and potassium. Fruits found to have the largest association were apple, banana and grapes. These results suggest a benefit for increased consumption of fruits in adolescence with regard to breast cancer risk.

While this study did not find a significant association between vegetable intake in adolescence and breast cancer risk, there are numerous positive health benefits associated with vegetable intake and guidelines consistently advocate for a diet high in leafy greens.

One Hour a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Inactivity is a major risk factor for poor health outcomes. It generally involves prolonged periods of sitting, where people can spend many hours each day with little movement of their major limbs.

Whether this is driving or working for hours on end at a computer, the health detriment is the same – higher risk of early death. Estimates suggest that at least five million avoidable deaths can be attributed to inactivity.

Despite the many known and well-publicised benefits of exercise, few people meet the recommendations of at least 60 minutes per day. Data on the health of over a million people highlight that meeting this recommendation could be a lifesaver. People who meet the recommendations of getting at least one hour of exercise each day cut the risk of early death by at least 40% compared to people who are active for less than 30 minutes per day. Furthermore, research has shown that the type of exercise isn’t crucial. All movement is good movement.

Achieving one hour of movement each day, including periods of standing, eliminates the risk of early death from inactivity. If you sit for hours each day, whether it’s on the couch, at the wheel or in front of a screen, now is the time to start moving. It could be a lifesaver.

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