Promoting fruit and vegetable consumption around the world


  • Approximately 1.7 million (2.8%) of deaths worldwide are attributable to low fruit and vegetable consumption.
  • Low fruit and vegetable intake is among the top 10 selected risk factors for global mortality.
  • Worldwide, insufficient intake of fruit and vegetables is estimated to cause around 14% of gastrointestinal cancer deaths, about 11% of ischaemic heart disease deaths and about 9% of stroke deaths.


Approximately 16.0 million (1.0%) disability adjusted life years (DALYs, a measure of the potential life lost due to premature mortality and the years of productive life lost due to disability) and 1.7 million (2.8%) of deaths worldwide are attributable to low fruit and vegetable consumption. Adequate consumption of fruit and vegetables reduces the risk for cardiovascular diseases, stomach cancer and colorectal cancer. There is convincing evidence that the consumption of high levels of high-energy foods, such as processed foods that are high in fats and sugars, promotes obesity compared to low-energy foods such as fruits and vegetables.

Low fruit and vegetable intake is among the top 10 risk factors contributing to attributable mortality, according to evidence presented in World Health Report 2003. Fruits and vegetables as part of the daily diet could help prevent major noncommunicable diseases (NCD). Moreover, eating a variety of vegetables and fruits clearly ensures an adequate intake of most micronutrients, dietary fibres and a host of essential non-nutrient substances.

A recent WHO/FAO expert consultation report on diet, nutrition and prevention of chronic diseases, sets population nutrient goals and recommends intake of a minimum of 400 g of fruits and vegetables per day for the prevention of chronic diseases such as heart diseases, cancer, diabetes and obesity. The report states that there is convincing evidence that fruits and vegetables decrease the risk for obesity, and evidence that they probably decrease the risk of diabetes. Further, there is convincing evidence that fruit and vegetables lower the risk for CVD. (The report specifies that the tubers, e.g. potatoes, cassava, should not be included in fruits and vegetables.)

WHO’s mandate

WHO’s mandate is to improve public health around the world with particular emphasis on decreasing inequalities in health. In May 2002, WHO was requested by the Member States to develop a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health in the context of the rising burden of chronic diseases. During a series of regional consultations to develop the strategy, Member States stressed to WHO the importance of working proactively with them to assist in increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables.With this obligation and the above-cited scientific base, WHO aims to actively promote an increase in fruit and vegetable intake worldwide, especially in developing countries. Incorporation of fruit and vegetable consumption as part of national noncommunicable disease (NCD) prevention and school health programmes is a central aim.