Tag Archives: fruits

Fruit, Vegetables Not as Nutritious as 50 Years Ago

In today’s world, food and health related media is everywhere, but according to a commentary published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, this has not brought clarity to or improved understanding of a topic of such obvious impact. Therefore, as communicators of food-related science we must be diligent in our communication to ensure that it is effective in serving both public understanding and the objectives of the communicators.

Dr. Weil, a well-established practitioner in the field of integrative medicine, does a great job of this. In his post How Nutritious is Your Produce?, he discusses research indicating that the nutrient value of fruits and vegetables in the U.S. and Great Britain has declined significantly over the last 50 years.

After reading Dr. Weil’s post, I decided to read the report myself. Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is the Evidence? highlights three types of evidence that point toward declines of nutrients in fruits and vegetables: (1) early studies of fertilization found inverse relationships between crop yield and mineral concentrations—the widely cited “dilution effect”; (2) three recent studies of historical food composition data found apparent median declines of 5% to 40% or more in some minerals in groups of vegetables and perhaps fruits; one study also evaluated vitamins and protein with similar results; (3) recent side-by-side plantings of low-and high-yield cultivars of broccoli and grains found consistently negative correlations between yield and concentrations of minerals and protein, a newly recognized genetic dilution effect.

Dr. Weil’s post appears to be credible for he represented the findings of the report accurately and in a way that is both informative and beneficial to the public and their understanding of food and health. Below I’ve highlighted why this post is an effective form of communication on food-science to the public:

  • Post includes the study’s limitations
  • Focuses on the most vital information (i.e. health implications), allowing the public to form the most useful net impression of the study’s findings
  • Includes hyperlink to the report published in the February, 2009 Journal of HortScience so that viewers can easily read the original research article.

Additional information from the report that I consider important to include are:

  • The fact that evidence for nutrient declines began to accumulate in the 1940s with observations of (environmental) dilution effects on minerals in many foods and diverse plants.
  • USDA’s data suggests that yields have increased more in vegetables than in fruits, which may help explain the findings of larger nutrient declines in vegetables.

WP 3/2