Why fruit and veg were better for us 50 years ago

Daily mail, March 5, 2001

FRUIT and vegetables are not as good for us as they were 50 years ago according to a scientific study.

Modem farming methods mean that the amount of essential minerals In the food we eat has been reduced alarmingly.

There is up to 75 per cent less calcium and 93 per cent less copper In fruit and vegetables, the study says.

Runner beans which used to contain a significant amount of sodium - vital for the working of the nerves and muscles — now have almost no traces of it at all.

The levels of other important minerals such as iron, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium have also plummeted.

Nutritionist David Thomas said he was ‘astonished’ by his flndlngs.

‘Minerals have been recognised as being very important to our physiology, but the general public has no idea that there has been this dramatic decline in the levels of such elements in our food,’ he said.

His research allowed that broccoli has 75 per cent less calcium, which Is

essential for building healthy boi and teeth. Carrots have 75 per cent less magnesium, which protects against heart attacks, asthma and kidney stones.

Spinach, famous as a good source of iron, was found to have 60 per C less iron than it did 50 years ago. Mr Thomas said he believed the reduction in the mineral content in food was a result of modern farm methods which use massive amounts of fertiliser on the soil.

The fertilisers encourage ph growth, but this Is at the expense of the minerals which are Important for good health.

Mr Thomas said: ‘We are made up of these substances. If they’re deficient then the body cannot cope as well as It would otherwise.’

He based his conclusions on data from The Composition of Foods, a comprehensive study of the content of all major foods dating back to 1940. By comparing figures over a 50-year period he was able to plot certain trends.

A similar analysis, comparing data from 1930 and 1980, was published in the British Food Journal in 1997. It compared 20 vegetables and found levels of calcium, iron and other minerals had declined significantly.

Professor Tim Lang, of the renowned Centre for Food Policy at Thames Valley University, said the results revealed an important trend which needed to be exposed.

‘These are big percentages,’ he said. ‘The nature of production is altering

what we are eating. Plant breeders have been trying to develop tomatoes and carrots and fruit that look nice, resist disease and can withstand being shipped halfway around the world.

‘They have been less concerned about the minerals in the food.

‘We are dying prematurely of coronary heart disease and cancer and we are being told to cut down on fat and eat more fruit and vegetables. But at the same time they are changing the content of what we are eating.’

Mr Thomas runs a company called Trace Minerals UK, based in Sussex, which distributes a mineral supplement called ConcenTrace. Professor Lang said that despite his commercial interest, Mr Thomas had carried out a legitimate piece of research.