Health & Fitness

Healthy eating…

what does the evidence say?

There’s no shortage of advice about how to eat healthily.  Can you really cut your risk of cancer or heart attack by changing your diet? Where does the evidence for ‘5-a-day’ come from?

The British Medical Association Consumer Health Team  looked for the answers to these and other key questions, and came up with some surprising answers. The results of their analysis is now on the Group’s consumer health website, Best Health

  • Eating more fruit and vegetables seems to reduce the risk of heart disease, but only by a small amount. One study found that eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduced the chances of heart disease by about six in 1,000 compared to people eating three or fewer.
  • Low-fat diets work to lower cholesterol by a small amount, and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes for people with heart disease, but we don’t know what effect they have on healthy people.
  • Keeping to a healthy weight, not drinking too much alcohol, not eating too much red meat, and taking plenty of exercise are the best ways to avoid cancer. There’s no magic diet or superfood that prevents cancer.
  • The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest ways to eat. There’s evidence to show that people who eat this type of diet are likely to live longer, less likely to have heart attacks, and less likely to get certain types of cancer. In one study, the researchers calculated there would be three to five fewer deaths each year among 1,000 people who ate a mainly Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet typically includes olive oil instead of dairy fats, lots of legumes, vegetables and fruit, moderate amounts of fish and poultry and little red meat. It is traditional in parts of southern European countries such as southern Italy, Greece.

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