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Men's Health

Men Urged to Eat 9 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables a Day to Reduce Chronic Disease Risk


Although black men are among the most seriously affected by diet-related chronic diseases, they have the lowest consumption of fruits and vegetables overall, eating an average of only 3.1 servings a day of the 9 recommended for men by federal nutrition policy, found research by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Only 3 percent of black men are even aware that men should eat 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day for better health, according to the NCI.

"Black men have the highest rates of prostate, lung, colon, oral, and stomach cancers and are over 140 percent more likely to die from cancer than white men," said Andrew von Eschenbach, NCI director.

"Since we recognize one third of all cancers are related to diet, this is one area that demands our attention," Eschenbach said. "By eating 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, the risk of diet-related diseases affecting the African-American community can be lowered."

The NCI is focusing its efforts on reaching African-American men because they suffer disproportionately from a variety of health conditions.

African-American men:

  • Overall, have the highest cancer incidence and mortality rates, as well as the highest rates for certain cancers of any ethnic or racial group.
  • Have the highest rates of prostate cancer and high blood pressure in the world.
  • Are twice as likely as white men to develop diabetes.
  • Develop diabetes and high blood pressure earlier in life than other men, and are more likely to suffer serious side-effects from these diseases.
  • Have higher mortality rates from heart disease and obesity than other ethnic groups.

"We all need to help motivate black men to eat their 9 A Day today," said Terry Mason, M.D., of Mercy Hospital in Chicago, who speaks to community groups across the country about how diet affects African-American men's health.

"Every day, I see patients who could have benefited from eating more fruits and vegetables, but are in my office instead. I am also a black man who eats more than 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, so I know it's doable, and I am living the benefits. By changing my diet and getting more physical activity, I've been able to reduce medication and I feel great."

"This campaign to reach African-American men is a major priority for NCI," said Lorelei DiSogra, Ed.D., R.D., director of the National 5 A Day for Better Health Program, which promotes the general recommendation for Americans to eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. "We are committed to driving a national, multi-year, multi-faceted communications and education campaign to get the 9 A Day message to African-American men."

To support the new "eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day" recommendation, NCI has updated its official campaign logo to emphasize the fact that most Americans should eat more than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

A minimum of 5 servings a day is recommended for children under 6 years. Older children and most women should eat 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and teenage boys and most men should eat 9. The "eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day" recommendation also supports the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2000 and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid.

A brochure for black men is available about the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables and tips on how to eat 9 A Day. For a copy of the brochure, call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

Also, a Web page has been developed for African-American men, www.9aday.cancer.gov.

Source: National Cancer Institute, www.nci.gov


© 2005 Health Resources Publishing