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Fruit and vegetables sold in the UK are ‘half as nutritious’ as 80 years ago, study shows

Fruit and vegetables sold in the UK are ‘half as nutritious’ as 80 years ago due to depleted levels of iron, magnesium, sodium and copper, study shows

  • Nutrients in 28 types of fruit and veg sold in 1940, 1991 and 2019 were examined
  • Analysis revealed average levels of sodium fell by 52 per cent over the period
  • Iron fell by 51%, copper by 49%, magnesium by 10% and potassium by 5%
  • Ministers being called on to regularly monitor fruit and veg nutritional quality

Fruit and vegetables sold in the UK now contain half the amount of some key nutrients as they did in 1940, a major study reveals.

Depleted levels of iron, magnesium, sodium and copper mean Britons are at increased risk of malnutrition, experts warn.

A greater reliance on imported produce and a shift to industrial agriculture and higher-yielding varieties may be to blame. 

Fruit and vegetables sold in the UK now contain half the amount of some key nutrients as they did in 1940, a major study reveals (file photo)

Researchers at Coventry University examined the nutrients in 28 types of fruit and vegetable – including potatoes and bananas – sold in the UK in 1940, 1991 and 2019.

Analysis revealed average levels of sodium fell by 52 per cent over the period, iron by 51 per cent and copper by 49 per cent. 

Magnesium levels fell 10 per cent, potassium by 5 per cent and calcium by 2.5 per cent.

Writing in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, the researchers said ‘many people’ do not consume a sufficiently varied diet, and teenagers in particular have poor diets.

Researchers at Coventry University examined the nutrients in 28 types of fruit and vegetable – including potatoes and bananas – sold in the UK in 1940, 1991 and 2019 (file photo)

Researchers at Coventry University examined the nutrients in 28 types of fruit and vegetable – including potatoes and bananas – sold in the UK in 1940, 1991 and 2019 (file photo)

Most varieties of fruit and vegetables eaten today have been bred to improve productivity and profitability and ‘this focus on yield has largely ignored any implications for nutritional quality’, the researchers say.

They call on ministers to regularly monitor the nutritional quality of fruit and vegetables and any variations between varieties and production methods.

The British Nutrition Foundation’s Helena Gibson-Moore said the ‘alarming’ results would have ‘little overall dietary nutritional impact’ on a healthy, balanced diet.

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