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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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Health

ARTICLE – IN PURSUIT OF 2 & 5 – FRUIT AND VEGETABLE CONSUMPTION IN AUSTRALIA

If we are what we eat, then most Australians are at least part ‘fruit and veg’, but is it a large enough part?

The food that people eat defines to an extent their health, growth and development, with fruit and vegetables playing a major role in this equation. Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables, and enough of them, gives people a better chance of getting all the nutrients and dietary fibre they need (AIHW, 2000), and could help prevent major health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and certain cancers (WHO, 2002).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), low fruit and vegetable consumption is among the top ten risk factors contributing to global mortality (WHO, 2011). In 2003, low fruit and vegetable consumption was estimated to be responsible for 2.1% of the total burden of disease in Australia (Begg et al. 2007).

In long-running Australian Government campaigns, people are encouraged to 'go for 2 & 5' (i.e. eat two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day). This article looks at the fruit and vegetable consumption of Australians aged 5 years and over to see how well we are meeting the guidelines.


Data source and definitions

This article uses self-reported data from the 2007–08 National Health Survey (NHS) for the number of serves of fruit and vegetables that people usually ate each day. Data for children aged 5–14 years, and for 36% of children aged 15–17 years, was provided by proxy (mostly a parent), in which case the data reflect the parent's knowledge of the child's consumption.

A serve of vegetables was defined as half a cup of cooked vegetables, one medium potato or one cup of salad vegetables (approximately 75 grams). Tomatoes were included as a vegetable rather than a fruit, and legumes were excluded (because the main food material in legumes is the seeds, which are in a separate category).

A serve of fruit was defined as one medium piece or two small pieces of fresh fruit, one cup of diced fruit, a quarter of a cup of sultanas, or four dried apricot halves (approximately 150 grams of fresh fruit or 50 grams of dried fruit).

Fruit and vegetable juices were excluded from consumption measures as their fruit or vegetable content was not able to be accurately gauged.


WHAT SHOULD WE BE EATING?

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) recommend that people eat the following usual daily serves of fruit and vegetables according to age (table S11.1).


S11.1 RECOMMENDED DAILY SERVES OF FRUIT AND VEGETABLES

Fruit
Vegetables

4–7 years
1
2
8–11 years
1
3
12–18 years
3
4
19 years and over
2
5

Source: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 2005.

NHMRC and DoHA also recommend that pregnant and breast-feeding women eat 4–5 serves of fruit and 5–7 serves of vegetables a day (NHMRC, 2005).


ARE AUSTRALIANS MEETING THE GUIDELINES?


Actually – not many of us. In 2007–08, just over half of all children aged 5–7 years (57%) and a third of children aged 8–11 years (32%) ate the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables but only 5% of people aged 12–18 years and 6% of people 19 years and over did so. Women and girls aged 12 years and over were slightly more likely to have eaten the recommended serves of fruit and vegetables than males the same age, but the difference between boys and girls aged 5–11 years was not statistically significant (graph S11.2).

S11.2 Met recommended guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption, By age and sex



HOW MUCH FRUIT AND VEG ARE WE ACTUALLY EATING?

In 2007–08, most Australians ate at least some fruit and vegetables on a typical day. While not many adults aged 19 years and over met their '2 & 5', a number of them got close. Around 9% usually ate five or more serves of vegetables and one or more serves of fruit a day; a further 11% usually ate four serves of vegetables and one or more serves of fruit a day; and 23% usually ate three serves of vegetables and one or more serves of fruit a day.

In general, the more vegetables that people ate, the more fruit they consumed. Around 40% of adults aged 19 years and over that reported eating no vegetables on a usual day also usually ate no fruit, and a further 35% ate one serve of fruit or less per day. On the other hand, 51% of people who reported usually eating two serves of vegetables a day, and 70% of people who ate the recommended five or more serves of vegetables a day also ate the recommended two or more serves of fruit a day (graph S11.3).


S11.3 PERSONS 19 YEARS AND OVER, Usual daily consumption of vegetables, By usual daily consumption of fruit



Consumption patterns for children aged 5–18 years were similar to those of adults, as shown in graph S11.4.


S11.4 CHILDREN 5 to 18 YEARS, Usual daily consumption of vegetables, By usual daily consumption of fruit


Children aged 5–11 years generally ate more fruit than older children and adults. Seven out of ten children aged 5–7 years (70%) and 8–11 years (71%) ate two or more serves of fruit per day, compared with 52% of people aged 12 years and over (graph S11.5). This story was more mixed for vegetable consumption, with 57% of children aged 5–7 years and 67% of children aged 8–11 years eating two or more serves of vegetables a day, compared with 63% of older children and 72% of adults (graph S11.6).

S11.5 ALL PERSONS 5 YEARS AND OVER, USUAL DAILY SERVES OF FRUIT, By age


S11.6 All persons 5 years and over, usual daily serves of vegetables, By age


Men aged 19 years and over were more likely to eat no fruit (8%) than women of the same age (5%), and were also more likely to eat only one or less serves of vegetables a day (32% compared with 22%).


WHAT WE SPEND ON FRUIT AND VEG

In 2010, Australian households, on average, spent slightly less each week on fruit and vegetables than on meat and quite a lot less than they spent on takeaway and fast food. Households spent an average of $13.70 per week on vegetables and $9.60 a week on fresh fruit, compared with $24.86 on meat, $4.89 on fish and other seafood, $15.07 on dairy products, $30.50 on takeaway and fast food, and $11.77 on confectionary (including potato crisps).


HAS OUR CONSUMPTION CHANGED OVER TIME?

In 2007–08, 13% of people aged 12 years and over said that their fruit intake had increased over the past year, with 8% reporting a decrease. Around 14% of people aged 12 years and over said that their vegetable consumption had increased over the past year, while 6% said that it had decreased.

After adjusting for changes in the age of the population, fruit consumption stayed relatively similar between 2001 and 2007–08, with 59% of people aged 12 years and over in 2001 usually eating two or more serves of fruit a day compared with 57% in 2007–08. However, vegetable consumption that approached or met guidelines for this age group, went down in this time, with only 20% of people aged 12 years and over in 2007–08 usually eating four or more serves of vegetables, compared with 30% in 2001.


WHAT AFFECTS OUR CONSUMPTION?

Environmental and economic factors may affect people's consumption of fruit and vegetables, while factors such as physical activity, other food choices, smoking, and alcohol consumption can modify the health impact of fruit and vegetables for better or worse (AIHW, 2000).

While geographical remoteness had some effect on people's consumption in 2007–08, the effect differed between fruit and vegetables. After adjusting for age, people in major cities and inner regional areas were slightly more likely to eat two or more serves of fruit than people in outer regional/remote areas (54% and 53% respectively compared with 49%). People in both inner regional and outer regional/remote areas ate more vegetables than people in major cities, with 47% and 46% respectively eating 3 or more serves a day compared with 39% of people in major cities.

People who lived in areas of most disadvantage (defined in terms of attributes like income, unemployment and educational attainment) reported eating less fruit than those in areas of least disadvantage. After adjusting for age, people in the most disadvantaged areas were almost twice as likely to eat no fruit (7% compared with 4%), and less likely to eat two or more serves of fruit per day (49%) than people who lived in areas of least disadvantage (57%). There was no significant difference in vegetable consumption between the two groups.

Country of birth

People's country of birth had some effect on consumption, but the effect differed for fruit and vegetables. In 2007–08, Australians born overseas were more likely to eat two or more serves of fruit a day (58% compared with 52% for those born in Australia), but less likely to eat three or more serves of vegetables a day (38% compared with 43%). Males born in Australia were the most likely to eat no fruit (8% compared with 4% of males born overseas). For females, 5% of those born in Australia and 3% of those born overseas ate no fruit).

Risk factors

Smoking, alcohol consumption and levels of physical activity are all factors that are linked to health. Data show that risky levels of these key factors are also associated with low levels of fruit and vegetable consumption. In 2007–08, people aged 18 years and over who consumed alcohol at risky or high risk levels (12%) or were current smokers (14%) were twice as likely to eat no fruit as the national average (6%), and much less likely to consume two or more serves of fruit a day (37% and 32% compared with an average of 51%).

Women who smoked were four times as likely as women who had never smoked to eat no fruit (13% compared with 3%), and much less likely to eat the recommended two serves a day (37% compared with 62% of women who had never smoked). Women who consumed alcohol at risky/high risk levels were also more likely than women who had never consumed alcohol to eat no fruit (9% and 3% respectively), and less likely to eat two or more serves of fruit a day (44% compared with 63%).

Fruit consumption patterns for men who smoked, and consumed alcohol at risky/high risk levels were similar to those of women; however, the differences between men with and without smoking and risky/high risk drinking behaviours were less marked than they were for women. The effect of these behaviours on vegetable consumption was less obvious, although people with risky behaviours reported eating fewer serves of vegetables on the whole.

People who exercised at moderate or high levels were more likely to eat two or more serves of fruit a day (60%) than people who did little or no exercise (48%). They were also more likely to eat three or more serves of vegetables a day (48% compared with 42%).


National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey

ABS is currently conducting the 2011–13 Australian Health Survey (AHS), which includes the National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NNPAS). This will be the first nationally representative nutrition survey since 1995. Data from NNPAS will provide detailed information about the foods, nutrients and dietary supplements consumed by the Australian population. In addition to answering questions about what foods people eat and the adequacy of their diets, it will provide information about other risk factors such smoking, levels of overweight and obesity, and the types and amounts of physical activity undertaken. As a part of the AHS, participants are also invited to voluntarily provide a blood and urine samples for analysis. These will measure key biomedical indicators such as cholesterol, sodium and folate levels and provide objective measures of the risk factors and the prevalence of conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular and kidney disease. The first detailed nutrition results are expected to be available from late 2013.


BIBLIOGRAPHY


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2000, Australia's Health 2000

Begg, S, Vos, T, Barker, B, Stevenson, C, Stanley, L and Lopez, AD 2007, The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003, AIHW PHE 82

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 2005, Food for health, Dietary guidelines for Australians: A guide to healthy eating

World Health Organization (WHO) 2002, Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases: report of a joint WHO/FAO expert consultation, Geneva, 28 January to 1 February 2002, WHO technical report series; 916

WHO 2011, Information sheet, Promoting fruit and vegetable consumption around the world

 

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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.


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