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Experts urge healthier diets to help reduce risks

By Yao Yuxin | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-17 09:02

Students dine at Shenyang Railway No 3 Primary School, a model school for student nutrition in Liaoning province. [Photo/Xinhua]

On average, Chinese people didn't eat enough vegetables and fruit in 2012, with the daily per capita intake of fruit far lower than recommended, according to statistics released by the Chinese Nutrition Society on May 10.

The data show that adults consumed an average 40.7 grams of fruit per day, far lower than the 200 to 350 grams (roughly equivalent to a medium-sized apple or orange), recommended by the society's dietary guidelines.

Moreover, per capita daily consumption of fresh vegetables was 269.4 grams, which failed to meet the recommended 300g to 500g.

"Approximately half of the Chinese population does not eat fruit at all," said Yang Yuexin, head of the Chinese Nutrition Society, adding that unhealthy diets have become far more prevalent in recent years as a result of a large rise in the amount of meat eaten coupled with a decline in vegetable consumption.

However, many netizens complain that fruit is prohibitively expensive, according to data from the society posted on Sino Weibo's news account.

The National Bureau of Statistics said the consumer price index rose by 2.5 percent last month, compared with April last year, with the price of fruit rising by 11.9 percent and vegetables by 17.4 percent.

A raft of research has shown that greater consumption of fruit and vegetables can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancers.

An article on April 3 in the Lancet, the world's most prestigious medical journal, sounded a warning, noting that a survey of 195 countries from 1990 to 2017 showed that the unbalanced diet meant China had the highest rates of cardiovascular disease and deaths from cancer among the world's most populous countries.

The journal said the leading dietary risk factors in China are high sodium intake and low consumption of whole grains and fruit.

The findings suggested that national dietary policies would work better if more efforts were made to raise the proportion of healthy ingredients in meals to the optimal level, rather than simply focusing on lower sugar and fat intake.

Yang, from the Chinese Nutrition Society, said fruit and vegetables rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber are crucial elements of a balanced diet and they should account for half of all meals eaten every day.

Ma Guansheng, a professor of nutrition and food hygiene at Peking University's School of Public Health, said everyone should eat at least 500g of vegetables and 250g of fruit a day.

To provide more opportunities for healthy eating, Ma suggested that fruit and vegetables that can be eaten raw should be placed in prominent positions in offices and homes, such as on desks and tables, to improve visibility and make them easier to obtain.

"Eating fruit and vegetables more frequently could help people develop stronger resistance and prevent many illnesses," he said.

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