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After counseling, people ate more fruit -- not more vegetables

October 17, 2012|By Mary MacVean
  • Study participants ate more fruit when told it could help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Study participants ate more fruit when told it could help prevent cancer… (David Karp / For The Times )

African American adults who were counseled to eat more produce and get more exercise as ways to reduce their chances of getting cancer and heart disease ate more fruit over the course of a month, researchers said.

But they didn’t exercise or up their consumption of vegetables, according to the work presented Wednesday at the American Assn. for Cancer Research meeting in Anaheim.

The work was looking at the notion that a greater effect could be achieved if people understood that one risky behavior – a poor diet, for instance – is associated with the chance of developing multiple diseases, said Melanie Jefferson of the Medical University of South Carolina, the lead researcher. That idea showed promise, she said.

The results also showed the interesting idea that participants changed one behavior but not others.

Jefferson said in a telephone interview that there are plans to go back to the participants to see if vegetables and exercise kick in after a longer period of time.

The fact that the participants were mostly poor, with incomes under $20,000, might mean they could not afford to join a gym or pay for exercise classes and might not feel safe walking or biking in their neighborhoods. She also said the researchers might ask about the fact that many fruits can be eaten as is while many vegetables are normally cooked – making it easier to eat fruit. And, Jefferson said, it’s hard to make more than one change at a time.

The 212 participants were in Philadelphia, and were assigned to two groups: one that was counseled about multiple disease risks, the other only about cardiovascular disease. They reported their eating at the start and one month later.

In the multiple disease group, those who ate the recommended amounts of fruit rose from 37.4% to 57.4%. In the other group, that went from 31.1% to 41.5%.

“What we found out in the baseline assessment, and through the interactive counseling sessions, is that people did have some idea that they should eat fruits and vegetables and should be active,” Jefferson said. But they were not aware of the specific guidelines. The researchers used the five-a-day guideline, plus other government recommendations.

Mary.MacVean@latimes.com

@mmacvean on Twitter

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