South African Medical Journal

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Estimating the burden of disease attributable to low fruit and vegetable intake in South Africa in 2000

Michelle Schneider, Rosana Norman, Nelia Steyn, Debbie Bradshaw


Objectives. To estimate the burden of disease attributed to low fruit and vegetable intake by sex and age group in South Africa for the year 2000.

Design. The analysis follows the World Health Organization comparative risk assessment (CRA) methodology. Populationattributable fractions were calculated from South African prevalence data from dietary surveys and applied to the revised South African burden of disease estimates for 2000. A theoretical maximum distribution of 600 g per day for fruit and vegetable intake was chosen. Monte Carlo simulation modelling techniques were used for uncertainty analysis.

Setting. South Africa.

Subjects. Adults ≥ 15 years.

Outcome measures. Mortality and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), from ischaemic heart disease, ischaemic stroke, lung cancer, gastric cancer, colorectal cancer and oesophageal cancer.Results. Low fruit and vegetable intake accounted for 3.2% of total deaths and 1.1 % of the 16.2 million attributable DALYs. For both males and females the largest proportion of total years of healthy life lost attributed to low fruit and vegetable intake was for ischaemic heart disease (60.6% and 52.2%, respectively). Ischaemic stroke accounted for 17.8% of attributable DALYs for males and 32.7% for females. For the related cancers, the leading attributable DALYs for men and women were oesophageal cancer (9.8% and 7.0%, respectively) and lung cancer (7.8% and 4.7%, respectively).

Conclusions. A high intake of fruit and vegetables can make a significant contribution to decreasing mortality from certain diseases. The challenge lies in creating the environment that facilitates changes in dietary habits such as the increased intake of fruit and vegetables.

AJOL African Journals Online