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Tinned fruit is not healthy

Fruit is healthy. That's an undisputed fact. But the same is not true for tinned fruit. The canning process results in the health-promoting properties of fruit disappearing explain epidemiologists at the University of Cambridge in PLoS One. The researchers followed over eighty thousand men and women for over ten years.

The researchers gathered data from three epidemiological studies done in England: the Norfolk and Oxford parts of the EPIC study and the Whitehall II study.

All three studies were done from the early 1990s until the start of this century, so covered a period of slightly more than a decade. All studies provided a picture of the participants' diet, and the researchers also recorded which participants died and the causes of death.

Tinned fruit raised the chance of dying. The effect was statistically significant, but also very small. We're talking about percentage points. So it's not really possible to conclude that tinned fruit is 'unhealthy' or 'bad' for you. What it is possible to conclude from the figure below is that the process of canning fruit results in fruit losing its health promoting qualities.

Tinned fruit is not healthy

Tinned fruit did not increase the chance of dying from cancer; it only raised the likelihood of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Tinned fruit is not healthy

The researchers also looked at whether the type of fruit played a role. This was not the case. Strawberries, peaches, melon, grapes, banana, pears, apples or mandarins all boosted the chance of dying when they were canned.

The researchers point to the possibility that acids in fruit corrode the tin containers [Nahrung. 1990;34(2):141-5.], meaning that consumers ingest the metals as a result. Analyses done in the 1980s suggest that the metals involved are lead and tin. [Food Addit Contam. 1991 Jul-Aug;8(4):485-96.] These metals probably negate the positive health effects of fruit.

Epidemiological studies suggest that long-term exposure to lead can increase the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease. [Circulation. 2009 Sep 22;120(12):1056-64.]

"We found no evidence to suggest a benefit on mortality from consumption of tinned fruit", the researchers conclude. "Our study and previous analyses together raise questions about the wisdom of current dietary recommendations promoting consumption of tinned fruit as part of a healthy diet."

This observation will have consequences for the guidelines for a healthy diet, the researchers fear.

"According to the UK National Food Survey, average household consumption of tinned fruit declined during 19752000, suggesting tinned fruit consumption is less widespread than before", the researchers wrote. "However, if tinned fruit is not beneficial to health then this may be particularly disadvantageous to vulnerable groups."

"Consumption habits are influenced by the cost and availability of food. In the UK National Food Survey tinned peaches, tinned pears and tinned pineapple were among the cheapest fruit products available, and people with low incomes consumed more canned food than people with high incomes."

PLoS One. 2015 Feb 25;10(2):e0117796.

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