Citing costs, new UK medic chief wants end to guidance on fruit, vegetable intake

22 November 2016

The chair of the Royal College of GPs, Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard has called on the UK government to stop advising people to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, because it was demoralising for those who could not afford to do so.

The guidance had been officially adopted in 2003 in an attempt to improve diets and boost the vitamin intake of the population.

However, due to the high price of fruit and vegetable it was  ''really, really hard'' for people with low incomes to meet the target, Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard told the Observer.

"It's expensive to have five-a-day,'' she told the newspaper. She added that unrealistic targets needed to be revised as they could demoralise people unable to reach them.

According to researchers at the University of Cambridge who analysed the changes in the price of different foods between 2002 and 2012, a healthy diet cost three times as much as junk food.

They found the price of healthy food, like tinned tomatoes and semi-skimmed milk had increased more steeply than that of less healthy foods like frozen pizza and ice cream, and worked out being thrice more expensive on average per calorie.

She also had doubts over always trying to persuade smokers to give up. ''Many people love to smoke still. Any reduction they can make is a good thing. Encourage them to reduce. If you only say to them 'the only positive outcome is quitting', then you're going to turn them off, you're not going to be able to have an ongoing conversation.''

Stokes-Lampard added that alcohol guidelines introduced in January, which stated that men should drink the same maximum 14 units a week that women had been advised to stick to for years, risked being seen as too strict. ''It's realistic, because a lot of people don't drink that much. But, for those who do, that seems like a hard task to achieve,'' she said.

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