According to scientists participating in a University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) conference on The Impact of Colourful Fruits and Vegetables on Health, some heat and lots of colour may be what people need to reap the healthy benefits of over 25,000 different phytochemicals associated with disease prevention. During the conference, scientists unveiled the Colour Wheel of Health, a new approach to healthy eating based on consuming a diversity of fruits and vegetables. These recommendations reflect research showing the link between powerful phytochemicals that give fruits and vegetables their colour and a reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, age-related blindness and even Alzheimer's disease. According to these scientists, the heating and steaming, which many people assume destroys heath benefits of fruits and vegetables, may free phytochemicals from structures in the plant cell and increase the availability of these substances to the body. Statistics show that only 9 per cent of American children ages 6 to 11 and only 20 per cent of adults get the five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day recommended by the National Cancer Institute. According to experts, as cancer risks build up over a lifetime, early and regular consumption of fruits and vegetables may have a positive impact on health. "An easy way for children and adults to select healthy fruits and vegetables is by their colours," says David Heber, M.D., Ph.D., and Director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition and organiser of the conference. "We know that the many DNA-protective phytonutrients in seven different colour groups of fruits and vegetables eaten each day can reduce the risk of cancer and other common illnesses. Additional good news is that these nutrients may be even more available in foods like pre-prepared soups, pasta sauces and other staples of a busy family's diet," he added. The conference discussed emerging research that links diets rich in certain types of vegetables and fruits to specific disease risk reduction: the links between the phytochemicals found in tomatoes and tomato-rich products and a reduced incidence of prostate and lung cancer; between blueberries and improved memory; and between spinach, kale and avocados and protection against cataracts and macular degeneration. Scientists also discussed how people who neglect their daily intake of colourful fruits and vegetables may be setting themselves up for increased risk for a number of diseases later in life.