More than 80% of people in Ulster are significantly increasing their chance of developing cancer by failing to eat their recommended five daily portions of fruit and vegetables - by far the worst rate in the UK, according to a new survey published today.
According to a Cancer Research UK survey of over 4,000 people, the province was the worst region with just 17% of those questioned saying they ate at least five pieces of fruit and veg. That was well below the national average of 34%.
The research found that 83% of those surveyed here did not eat their recommended five-a-day. This was by far the highest figure found in the UK, ahead of the East Midlands and Yorkshire where 73% do not hit the recommended target.
About one quarter of all cancer deaths are thought to be caused by unhealthy diets and obesity. Diet affects the risk of many cancers including stomach, bowel, mouth and the foodpipe.
A healthy diet reduces the risk of cancer as well as protecting against other conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity.
A healthy diet contains at least five daily portions of fruit and vegetables, is based on starchy foods such as rice, wholegrain breads and cereals, and is low is fat, sugar and salt.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, said: " This lack of fruit and vegetables in the majority of diets in Northern Ireland and across the UK is worrying."
Charlene Shoneye, specialist dietician with Weight Concern, said that the results were "a cause for concern".
She said: "We know that eating a diet high in fruit and vegetables can reduce the risk of cancers, aid weight loss and help prevent obesity, but we are still not eating enough."