Three portions of fruit and vegetables a day are as good as five at boosting life expectancy, a major global study has found.
Research on more than 130,000 adults found that a “modest level of consumption” was enough to cut death rates by more than a fifth.
Those eating three portions a day had the same mortality rates as those having five or more.
And the best gains were associated with eating vegetables raw, rather than cooking them, researchers said.
The findings, published in the Lancet, come from a study which tracked the eating habits of men and women in 18 countries, using detailed questionnaires.
Many, like Britain, have campaigns urging them to consume “5 a day,” with the NHS recommending at least this.
But the research found that as long as portions were generous, three was sufficient to slash mortality risks.
Heart experts urged health officials to consider simplifying current advice, suggesting it was much simpler to have three large portions a day – as part of each meal.
Those having at least three servings a day had death rates 22 per cent lower than those managing less than one. But more than that brought no extra gain, the study, led by Canadian researchers found.
And when participants included raw vegetables in their intake, mortality was slashed by almost one third.
The findings, presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona, come from a study which tracked 135,335 men and women aged 35 to 70 for an average of 7 and a half years.
In total, 5,796 participants died.
In the study, a portion was defined as 125g or fruits or vegetables, or 150 g of legumes.
Study investigator Dr Andrew Mente, from McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada, said: “Around three to four servings was the amount associated with the maximum benefit, with little further benefit with higher consumption.
“Beyond this, the risk of mortality remains constant with no added benefit with higher level of intake
“This is good news, because it is much more feasible to achieve three to four servings than it is to achieve more than five servings a day,” he said.
Researchers also urged health officials across the world to advise increased consumption of raw vegetables.
“The other thing we found was that raw veg were more beneficial than cooked veg, which really is not defined in any of the guidelines,” Dr Mente said.
In the UK, the ‘5 a day’ campaign in the UK recommends five portions of at least 80g – a target which three in four…