Sunday, March 18, 2007

Americans Not Eating Enough Fruits and Veggies

(HealthDay News) -- Most Americans are still not eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, a new government report shows.

Even though many people know that fruits and vegetables help lower the risk of many diseases, consumption is still a long way from reaching the government goals set in Healthy People 2010, the researchers said. Their bad news is delivered in this week's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Only 32.6 percent of adults are eating fruit two or more times per day, and only 27.2 percent are eating vegetables three or more times a day," said researcher Dr. Larry Cohen, an epidemic intelligence officer at the CDC.

That falls far short of the national goal of getting 75 percent of the population to eat fruit two or more times a day and 50 percent to eat vegetables three or more times per day by 2010, Cohen said.

The irony is that most Americans are aware of the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, Cohen said. "However, translating that awareness to actually doing it is lacking."

To get closer to meeting these goals, a vigorous effort is needed to reach out to the public, Cohen said. "We need more measures to educate and motivate people to make healthier dietary choices," he said. "We have to target the family, the community and the overall society, and push policies that have a broad impact."

The data for the report were gathered using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 2005. The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System is a survey of people throughout the United States. As part of the survey, people were asked how many servings of fruits and vegetables they ate per day.

Cohen thinks that there are a number of reasons that people aren't eating fruits and vegetables in greater numbers. "It could be due to lack of access, or that some people don't like fruits and vegetables. There could also be cultural reasons," he said.

One expert agrees that an effort to get more people to eat fruits and vegetables is important.
"The new CDC report indicates something we've long known, that fruits and vegetable intake is well below recommended levels," said Dr. David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine.

This is regrettable, Katz said. "These two food categories have the greatest potential of all for promoting health and fighting disease," he said.

Katz thinks that the problem is made worse by the food choices available to most Americans.
"The problem is compounded by price incentives and disincentives that encourage people to eat highly processed foods," Katz said. "It may also be compounded by the popularity of low-carb diets that discourage people from eating fruit."

Katz thinks eating a healthful diet should be a national priority. "There needs to be an effort to find ways to get more people to eat fruits and vegetables and to convince them that it's important for health," he said.

More information
For more information on a healthful diet, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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