Fruit and vegetable consumption could be as good for your mental as your physical health

September 23, 2014, University of Warwick
Credit: Anna Langova/Public Domain

(Medical Xpress)—Fruit and vegetable consumption could be as good for your mental as your physical health, new research suggests.

The research, conducted by the University of Warwick's Medical School using from the Health Survey for England, and published by BMJ Open focused on mental wellbeing and found that high and low mental wellbeing were consistently associated with an individual's fruit and vegetable consumption.

33.5% of respondents with high mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8% who ate less than one portion. Commenting on the findings Dr Saverio Stranges, the research paper's lead author, said: "The data suggest that higher an individual's fruit and the lower the chance of their having low mental wellbeing".

31.4% of those with high mental wellbeing ate three-four portions and 28.4% ate one-two.

Other health-related behaviours were found to be associated with mental wellbeing, but along with smoking only fruit and vegetable consumption was consistently associated in both men and women. Alcohol intake and obesity were not associated with high mental wellbeing.

Commenting on the findings Dr Saverio Stranges, the research paper's lead author, said: "Along with smoking, fruit and was the health-related behaviour most consistently associated with both low and high mental wellbeing. These novel findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake may play a potential role as a driver, not just of physical, but also of mental wellbeing in the general population".

Low mental wellbeing is strongly linked to mental illness and mental health problems, but high mental wellbeing is more than the absence of symptoms or illness; it is a state in which people feel good and function well. Optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships with others are all part of this state. Mental wellbeing is important not just to protect people from but because it protects people against common and serious physical diseases.

Discussing the implications of the research, co-author Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown says that: "Mental illness is hugely costly to both the individual and society, and mental wellbeing underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles and social inequalities in health. It has become very important that we begin to research the factors that enable people to maintain a sense of wellbeing.

"Our findings add to the mounting evidence that fruit and vegetable intake could be one such factor and mean that people are likely to be able to enhance their mental wellbeing at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer".

Mental wellbeing was assessed using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS), in which the top 15% of participants categorised as having High mental wellbeing, the bottom 15% Low and the middle 16-84% as Middle.

The research involved 14,000 participants in England aged 16 or over, with 56% of those being female and 44% male, as part of the Health Survey for England – which saw detailed information collected on mental and , health related behaviours, demographics and socio-economic characteristics.

Explore further: Healthy diet vital for adolescent mental health

More information: The paper, "Major health-related behaviours and mental well-being in the general population: the Health Survey for England", is available here: bmjopen.bmj.com/content/4/9/e005878.abstract

Related Stories

Healthy diet vital for adolescent mental health

August 22, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—New Zealand adolescents may need to increase their fruit and vegetable intake and reduce unhealthy options like sugary drinks and takeaways, to protect their mental health.

Older people in debt are more likely to suffer mental health problems

January 27, 2014
New research has shown that people who are struggling to manage their finances in old age are eight times more likely to have reduced levels of mental wellbeing than their wealthy peers.

Too much weekly sport seems to be as bad as too little for teen wellbeing

November 20, 2013
Too much weekly sport seems to be as bad as too little for teen well-being, suggesting there's an inverted U shaped relationship between the two, finds research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

7-a-day for happiness and mental health

October 9, 2012
Happiness and mental health are highest among people who eat seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day, according to a new report.

Lifestyle choices keep health all in the mind

July 28, 2011
Physical activity and being a volunteer assist mental wellbeing, a new ACT research report has found.

Focus needed on youth mental health

May 7, 2014
There is a need for on-going youth mental health monitoring and interventions, given a small decline in aspects of self-reported mental health among New Zealand secondary school students.

Recommended for you

Depressed patients see quality of life improve with nerve stimulation

August 21, 2018
People with depression who are treated with nerve stimulation experience significant improvements in quality of life, even when their depression symptoms don't completely subside, according to results of a national study ...

Study identifies 'compulsivity circuit' in heavy alcohol drinkers

August 21, 2018
Heavy alcohol drinkers attempt to acquire alcohol despite the threat of a negative consequence more so than light drinkers, a study in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging has found, and this behavior ...

A depressed spouse may increase one's own cognitive decline, study finds

August 21, 2018
Researchers at Yale School of Public Health and their scientific partners have found that having a depressed spouse can increase one's own depressive symptoms as well as cognitive decline over time in late life. 

Beauty is simpler, and less special, than we realize

August 20, 2018
Beauty, long studied by philosophers, and more recently by scientists, is simpler than we might think, New York University psychology researchers have concluded in a new analysis. Their work, which appears in the journal ...

Bilingual children who speak native language at home have higher intelligence

August 20, 2018
Children who regularly use their native language at home while growing up in a different country have higher IQs, a new study has shown.

People are more honest when using a foreign tongue, research finds

August 17, 2018
New UChicago-led research suggests that someone who speaks in a foreign language is probably more credible than the average native speaker.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.