Drink your way to five-a-day

By Gavin Kermack

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Us

Drinking vegetable juice is an effective and acceptable way to increase an individual’s vegetable intake, according to new research from the US.

The study, conducted by researchers from the nutrition department at the University of California, Davis, and funded by Campbell Soup, which manufactures the V8 vegetable juice used in the study, found that up to 100 per cent of subjects who drank vegetable juice every day met the recommendations for consumption of vegetables outlined by the US Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH).

“What we found in this study is that drinking vegetable juice seemed to address some of the key barriers to vegetable consumption such as convenience, portability and taste, so individuals were more likely to meet their daily recommendations,”​ said Carl Keen, one of the authors of the study.

The ‘five-a-day’ message is well known, but applying this does not seem to be filtering down into everyday life. Recent studies have shown that consumers in both Europe and the US are failing to meet recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to eat 400g of fruit and vegetables a day. According to the researchers, 90 per cent of adult Americans fall short of the daily recommended vegetable intake.

Meeting targets

The 12-week study involved 66 healthy women and 24 healthy men aged between 40 and 65 and examined the effects that consumption of V8 100 per cent vegetable juice had on their overall vegetable intake.

The 90 participants were divided into three groups. The control group drank no vegetable juice. One group drank 8oz (240ml) and the third drank 16oz (470ml) of vegetable juice each day. All three groups were encouraged to increase their overall vegetable consumption and all three were counselled on the DASH eating plan, a diet promoted by the US government National Institutes of Health agency. The eating plan includes vegetables as an integral part of its guide to lowering blood pressure.

The researchers kept an eye on the overall health of the participants, collecting lifestyle questionnaires, body mass index (BMI), blood lipids, blood pressure and three-day diet records at the start and end of the study, as well as halfway through.

After six weeks, the average vegetable intake across all three groups was 2.5 servings/day (not including vegetable juice) – half the DASH recommendations. However, when vegetable juice was taken into account, 52 per cent of the 8oz group and all members of the 16oz group met the recommendations. Only 23 per cent of the control group met the recommendations.

Easy and enjoyable

The questionnaires also showed that those consuming vegetable juice felt they were “doing something good”​, enjoyed the taste, were satisfied with the ease of including vegetables into their diets, and felt they were getting enough vitamins and minerals.

The researchers concluded that consumption of vegetable juice is “an easy, acceptable way to help meet DASH vegetable recommendations”​ and that attempts to follow dietary advice are more effective when combined with more convenient solutions.

“Vegetable juice drinkers reported that they actually enjoyed drinking their vegetables, which is critical to adopting dietary practises for the long-term,”​ said Keen.

Both the US and UK governments recommend eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, in line with WHO recommendations. The consumption of vegetables has been strongly linked with a range of health benefits including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer.

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