Opinion article* published in Australasian Science written by Professor Clare Collins at the University of Newcastle.

New diet fads and furphies seem to appear every day. While some of these have a scientific basis, for others the science has changed in response to new discoveries or the science is just not there yet.

“I took this rare superfood that only grows on the southern slope of an exotic mountain for 2 weeks per year and must be hand -picked at dawn. It costs $40 per kilo.” When I hear stories like this I cringe and wish I could convince people to save their $40 and spend the money on more vegetables and fruits. The evidence is clear that eating more fruit and veg will lower your risk of weight gain and of developing common conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

Low fruit and vegetable intake is one of the top ten risk factors contributing to global mortality. About 1.7 million deaths worldwide are attributable to low fruit and vegetable
consumption, as well as 14% of the deaths from gastrointestinal cancers, 11% of deaths from heart disease and about 9% of deaths from stroke. Yet we seem to love spending money on pills and potions that promise a quick fix, but for which there
is almost no scientific proof they work. What can we do to change this?

The supplements and complementary medicines industry is estimated to be worth about $1.5 billion per year in Australia, with a growth of about 12% per year. More than 50% of Australians are taking some form of vitamins, minerals, complementary or herbal supplements. This is in stark contrast to 2009 -10 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Household Expenditure Survey, which reported that the average
Australian household spends just $13.70 per week on vegetables and $9.60 on fresh fruit yet $32.35 on alcohol.

It turns out that when you eat more brightly coloured vegetables and fruit that some of the colours, called carotenoids, end up in your skin. These are the food factors responsible for that “healthy glow “. What is fascinating, however, is that other young people can detect these carotenoids and perceive others with higher skin carotenoids levels to be more healthy and attractive. So now we are on a mission to identify which vegetables and fruits you need to get this effect, which are most potent and how long it takes until others notice the result.

Read the full article in the February edition of Australasian Science.

*This opinion piece represents the author’s views