Increasing consumption what is being done

The strength of the scientific base for the health benefits of diets rich in fruits and vegetables has also guided national policy making in diet and health issues and facilitated community and local programmes that address national dietary goals to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. An example of this is the '5-A-Day for Better Health' programme in the USA that aims to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables to an average of five or more servings a day. The aim is to improve the health of Americans through a partnership among the health community, government agencies, the fruit and vegetable industry and other private sectors. According to this programme, consumer awareness of the '5-A-Day' message increased from 8 to 39% between 1991 and 1997, promotion activities increased fruit and vegetable sales in stores and average fruit and vegetable consumption increased by half a serving from 3.9 servings a day in 1991 when the 5-A-Day programme began, to 4.4 servings by 1994 (www.5aday.com). Links to initiatives in many other regions of the world can also be found at this 5-A-Day website.

In several programmes, emphasis is placed on the education and involvement of children, because many of the processes linked to the development of chronic disease begin in childhood. Evidence from the Bogalusa Heart Study, tracking early risk of heart disease among American children, suggests that eating habits in childhood have a potential lifelong effect on cholesterol levels and on adult coronary heart disease.32 A study of British schoolchildren found that children who ate fruit more than once per day had better lung function compared with those who did not. The difference was evident even after controlling for possible confounding factors such as social class and passive smoking.33 A further study in Italy found that even low intakes of fruit can reduce wheezing and asthma with effects being most noticeable in children with a history of respiratory problems.34 Continued attention to increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in children is viewed as a practical and important way to optimise nutrition and maximise good health throughout life, and reduce disease risk in older age.

The National School Fruit Scheme in the UK is an example of dietary guidelines for children being put into practice. The plan is that by 2004 every child in nursery, and aged four to six in infant schools, will be entitled to a free piece of fruit each school day. The practicalities of the scheme are being examined through pilot studies before the scheme is introduced nationally. Issues relating to distribution and how best to encourage the children to eat and enjoy the fruit provided are part of the preliminary studies. If such schemes are to succeed they need to be positive and fun, making fruit and vegetables part of the children's culture. The scheme will run alongside new nutritional standards for school meals and community projects aimed at improving access to 'healthy' foods, increasing involvement in physical activities and tackling the growing problem of obesity (one in ten 6-year-olds in the UK are classified as obese, which represents a doubling since 1990).

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100 Weight Loss Tips

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