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Fruit and Vegetable Policy in the European Union

04 Jul 2005

Fruit and Vegetable Policy in the European Union: its effect on the burden of cardiovascular disease.

There is a huge burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Europe. CVD is responsible for 1.9 million (42% of the total) deaths in the European Union per year (Petersen, Peto et al. 2005). The World Health Organization (WHO) World Health Report 2003 reported that CVD makes up 16.7 million (29.2%) of total worldwide deaths, while in the European region CVD was responsible for between 26.8% and 55.8% of total deaths (World Health Organization 2003). Although CVD mortality and incidence have been falling over the last 20 years in most northern, southern and western European countries, they are rising in many central and eastern European countries. CVD remains the leading cause of death in women in all countries of Europe, and in men for all countries except France and San Marino (Petersen, Peto et al. 2005).

Cardiovascular risk factors are well known and mostly amenable to change. Public health policies aimed at reducing rates of cardiovascular diseases have typically emphasised the traditional risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol and physical inactivity. Dietary interventions have tended to focus on reducing consumption of fat, in particular saturated fat, and salt. In the past less policy attention has been given to the impact of fruit and vegetable consumption. However, this is of growing importance as the nutrition transition, occurring in all but the poorest countries of the world, is resulting in the replacement of traditional plant-based diets rich in fruit and vegetables by diets rich in animal fats, salt and sugar, and low in complex carbohydrates (Popkin 2002). Dietary patterns across Europe, which once displayed cultural differences, are now converging.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the potential effect of the EU Common Agricultural Policy fruit and vegetable regime on the burden of CVD.