New government statistics show fresh fruit and vegetables are not as good for us as they were 60 years ago. The report, by nutritionist and chiropractor Dr. David Thomas, shows the content of natural minerals, such as iron, calcium, copper and magnesium, has decreased by up to 76 per cent since 1940. The growth of intensive farming methods, which use artificial fertilizers to get plants to grow bigger and faster, is blamed for the decline.
Dr Thomas said: "The findings suggest that our diet is now far less nutritious than it was 60 years ago. It is likely that levels of a whole host of other trace elements which have proven benefits to health and whose absence can create disease conditions, have also been depleted. "Nowadays you need to eat three times as many oranges as you would have done in 1940 to get the same amount of iron. Dr Thomas compared statistics for the mineral content of fruit and vegetables in 1940 with the latest figures from 1991.
In the vegetables the level of magnesium had dropped by nearly 25 per cent, calcium by 46 per cent and sodium by 50 per cent, while copper levels had slumped by more than 75 per cent. In fruit, sodium had dipped by 27 per cent, iron by 25 per cent and copper by 20 per cent.
A lack of iron can impair intellectual functions, while calcium is vital for strong teeth and bones, particularly in children. A shortage of magnesium can lead to neurological and heart problems.
Although modern intensive farming allows fruit and vegetables to grow faster as they receive lots of nutrients, it does not necessarily create produce with the same amount of minerals as in previous generations. A greater number of crops growing in one area means less nutrients from the soil per plant.
Mike Lean, professor of nutrition at Glasgow University who is also a director of the Health Education Board for Scotland, said: "Advice at the moment is to eat a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables combined every day. Maybe we should be eating considerably more than that.