COVENTRY, U.K. — Research focused on fruit and vegetable intake has linked increased consumption with better physical health, but a new study published in the British Medical Journal found that it also positively influenced mental well-being.
Researchers at the University of Warwick’s Medical School used data from the Health Survey for England to assess mental well-being in relation to factors such as fruit and vegetable intake. The study included 13,983 adults (56% female) ages 16 and older. The survey responses from 2010 and 2011 were analyzed using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale to estimate low and high mental well-being.
“Mental well-being is more than the absence of mental illness or psychiatric pathology,” the study said. “It implies ‘feeling good’ and ‘functioning well’ and includes aspects such as optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience, agency autonomy and good relationships with others.”
The research found that 33.5% of participants with high mental well-being consumed five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Only 6.8% of the respondents who consumed less than one portion a day showed a high mental well-being. In addition, 31.4% of the respondents with a high mental well-being ate 2 to 4 portions and 28.4% consumed 1 to 2 portions.
The data suggests that an individual with a higher fruit and vegetable intake will have a decreased chance of having a low mental well-being, which may lead to a later development of a mental or physical illness. Fruit and vegetable intake was consistently associated with better well-being in both men and women.
“Fruit and vegetable consumption might also be acting as a proxy for a complex set of highly correlated dietary exposures, including fish and whole grains, which might contribute to the observed associations,” the researchers said. “Our finding is, of course, in line with a large body of epidemiological and trial evidence on the beneficial role of fruit and vegetable intake in general well-being and prevention of major chronic disease across several populations and age groups.”The study is the first comprehensive analysis of behaviors associated with mental well-being in a large, nationally representative sample of a general population.