Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Atkins and 5 / 7 a day

Bit off fuss in the news this morning where a new study (statistical analysis) suggests that 7 a day "portions" of "fruit and veg" is better than the currently recommended 5 a day based on general mortality as well as death from cancer, heart disease and stroke.

In other words if you eat more vegetables and fruit you're less likely to die in a car accident. This may seem flippant but a) it is April 1st and b) that's what they're saying when looking at "all cause mortality"....
Death risk from any cause decreased as fruit and veg consumption increased. Risk of death by any cause was reduced by:
14% by eating one to three portions of fruit or veg per day
29% for three to five
36% for five to seven
42% for seven or more
Fresh vegetables had the strongest protective effect, followed by salad and then fruit.
Fruit juice conferred no benefit, while canned fruit appeared to increase the risk of death - possibly because it is stored in sugary syrup, say the researchers.
Let's not forget that " Potatoes and cassava don't count because they mainly contribute starch to the diet " - not that low carb eaters would be bothering with those things anyway.

So where does this leave the health concious low carb eater ? The good old 42 year old fad that is the Atkins diet usually catches some stick on these occasions, but let's remind ourselves of the facts that in Phase 1, the most restrictive, the current Atkins plan requires 12 to 15 grams of carbohydrate from foundation vegetables.

So is the Atkins diet compatible with 5-a-day or 7-a-day of vegetables (and fruit) ?

According to conventional wisdom dietitians a portion is 80 grams which I think originates from the World Health Organisation. 5 or 7 a day at 80 grams each is 400 to 560 grams a day. If the carbohydrate content is low enough, less than 5 grams per 100 grams of veg, then the limits of Atkins Phase 1 are not incompatible with 5 or even 7 a day :-

Grams / day of vegetables
Carbohydrate g/day400560
Carbs g/100g

[ Note for Americans - UK / EU labelling reports carbohydrates separately to fibre, effectively "net carbs", so these numbers are lower than you are used to. ]

Some example vegetables from Tesco.com :-
Carbs g/100g
Green beans3.2
Brussel sprouts4.1
Savoy cabbage4.1
Romaine lettuce1.7

Clearly it is possible to comply with 5-a-day of vegetables and 7-a-day too if you're careful to pick the right vegetables.  You may be able to add 80 grams of raspberries a day (3.7g of carbs) into your discretionary non-foundation veg carbs too, or as you move into Phase 2 the chocie of vegetables and berries will increase accordingly.

I conclude that the Atkins diet is entirely compatible with the "5 a day" message, in fact it's effectively built in with the 12-15g of carbs from foundation vegetables. Enjoy !

PS Full study behind the headlines is "Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause,
cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data" by
Oyinlola Oyebode, Vanessa Gordon-Dseagu, Alice Walker, Jennifer S Mindell.
To be found online, currently with Open Access.
JECH Online First, published on March 31, 2014 as 10.1136/jech-2013-203500

PPS You might be interested in an audio podcast about getting overweight children to eat more vegetables (and fruit).

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