Fruits, Vegetables Offer Little Cancer Protection
Study Finds Protective Effect of Diet Rich in Fruits, Vegetables Modest at Best
WebMD News Archive
Fruits, Vegetables, and Cancer Risk: Results continued...
For instance, he says, those who increased their intake by about 200 grams a
day, or about 1.5 servings a day, had a 3% or 4% reduced risk of getting
The effect was weaker for fruits when considered alone than for vegetables,
Boffetta is not certain whether the findings hold for a U.S. population, but
he speculates they probably do.
It's also possible that certain substances in specific fruits or vegetables
may be more protective, Boffetta says. Lycopene, a substance found in tomatoes,
for instance, has been found to reduce prostate cancer risk.
"Our purpose was really to look at the big picture," he says. "It's a little
diluted when you look at the big picture."
Fruits, Vegetables, and Cancer Risk: More Opinions
Enthusiasm for fruits and vegetables to protect against cancer swelled in
the 1990s, when some experts expected a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
would reduce cancer risk as much as 50%, says Walter Willett, MD, DrPH,
chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health,
in an editorial accompanying the study.
The National Cancer Institute's 5-a-Day program was then developed in
But later studies didn't confirm such a strong link, he says.
And the new study findings, Willett says, "add further evidence that a broad
effort to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables will not have a major
effect on cancer incidence."
Even so, he says, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will reduce the risk
of cardiovascular disease, and ''a small benefit for cancer remains
It is still possible, he agrees, that certain substances in fruits and
vegetables or specific fruits and vegetables will be found to have a stronger
protective effect against cancer.
The study findings are no reason to cut back on fruits and vegetables, says
Connie Diekman, RD, director of university nutrition at Washington University
in St. Louis and past president of the American Dietetic Association.
"While we may not understand what all fruits and vegetables can do to help
prevent disease and promote health, inclusion of more fruits and vegetables can
aid satiety [feeling full and satisfied], help reduce calorie intake, and
certainly boost overall nutrition," she says.