Researchers in England have based their findings on a 60 year follow-up of a group who had completed a week's household food inventory during the 1930s (Boyd Orr cohort).
The original study was part of a wider investigation into the family diet, health, and social circumstances. It included 1350 families in 16 rural and urban areas of England and Scotland, and was carried out between 1937 and 1939.
In this study, researchers successfully traced almost 4000 men and women who had been children at the time of the original survey through health service records.
In addition, records of deaths and cancer occurrence, recorded up to the end of July 2000 were assessed.
|Increasing fruit intake was also associated with lower death rates from all causes.|
|Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health|
The researchers found that 483 cases of cancer had been diagnosed in the study group. The most common were lung and bowel cancers in men, and breast, lung, and bowel cancers in women.
The researchers took into account age, gender, and energy intake, high levels of which are associated with an increased risk of cancer.
They found that the higher the fruit consumption during childhood, the less likely was the risk of developing cancer as an adult.
Furthermore, increasing fruit intake was also associated with lower death rates from all causes, although this evidence was not so strong.
There was no link between cooked vegetables and cancer risk. However, this may be due to the prolonged boiling of vegetables, and the subsequent depletion of micronutrients, that was the norm in the 1930s.
The researchers also investigated the influence of vitamins C, E, and beta carotene. However, they found little evidence that specific vitamins were responsible for the apparently protective effects of fruit.