A strong link between mental well-being and consumption of fruits, vegetables and possibly whole grains has been confirmed in a comprehensive study of English adults, published this summer in the medical journal BMJ Open.
Researchers at the University of Warwick Medical School in Coventry examined data from nearly 14,000 respondents who participated in the annual Health Survey for England to determine whether correlations exist between mental health and obesity, smoking and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
“The novel finding in our study is that, along with smoking, the behavioural risk factor most consistently associated with mental health was fruit and vegetable consumption,” the Warwick team concluded. “The latter was associated with increased odds of high mental well-being and reduced odds of low mental well-being and these associations could be observed in men and women.”
The findings confirmed earlier research that has consistently proven that beneficial effects of fruits and vegetables are not limited to physical health: “This is not the first study to draw attention to a relationship between mental health, and fruit and vegetable consumption. For example, one recent study showed positive affect to be predictable on the basis of the current and previous days’ fruit and vegetable consumption; likewise, nine different antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables have been shown in another study to be associated with optimism in middle-aged adults. We were only able to examine fruit and vegetable consumption up to five portions a day, but other studies have shown a dose–response relationship between mental and physical health up to seven portions a day.”
Although consumption of grains was not directly studied, the researchers believe that adults who are careful to include fruits and vegetables in their diet are also likely to be consuming generous amounts of whole grains: “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 research team acknowledges that it is not possible to completely separate physical and psychological effects. High mental well-being might be the result of simply feeling better physically, and avoiding debilitating disease: “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.”
Review the full study here: http://bmj.co/1rd82Fr