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Eating fruits and vegetables could reduce risk of various cancers, UN reports

Eating fruits and vegetables could reduce risk of various cancers, UN reports

A new scientific review by the United Nations health agency has revealed that eating fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of cancer, particularly those in the gastrointestinal tract.

“In many studies, there is a fairly consistent association of higher levels of fruits and vegetables intake with some reduction in cancer risk,” said Paul Kleihues, Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC), which coordinates and conducts research on the causes of human cancer and develops strategies for cancer control.

IARC brought together 22 scientists from 10 countries for an international review of a wide-range of research findings. The working group, which met in France, estimated that one in ten cancers in western populations are due to an insufficient intake of fruits and vegetables. Although variable around the world, this fraction is expected to be higher in regions where the intake of fruits and vegetables is lower.

“This, plus the evidence of beneficial effects of fruits and vegetables on other major diseases such as heart disease, indicates that individuals and communities should increase their intake of these foods,” Mr. Kleihues said. “This is an important message for governments, the food industry and consumers.”

Though the results are persuasive for cancers overall, according to the working group’s chairman, Tony McMichael, the evidence for any particular type of cancer in relation to fruits and vegetables intake is uncertain.

“Individual dietary habits are complex, and they are accompanied by various other personal behaviours, such as smoking and alcohol consumption, that can also affect cancer risk,” Mr. McMichael said. “So, it is not easy to get conclusive evidence on diet-cancer relationships.”

The high-level scientists said the clearest evidence of a cancer-protective effect of eating more fruits was for stomach, lung and oesophageal cancers.