Eating Fruits & Vegetables Linked to “Mental Well-being”

Rob Wipond
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A relatively high consumption of fruits and vegetables was linked to the highest range of scores for people on a “mental well-being” test, according to a study in the British Medical Journal Open.

“Major behavioural risk factors are known to adversely affect health outcomes and be strongly associated with mental illness,” wrote a team of University of Warwick researchers. “However, little is known about the association of these risk factors with mental well-being in the general population.”

Using surveys of 13,983 people aged 16 years and older, the researchers evaluated impacts of body mass index, smoking, drinking habits, and fruit and vegetable intake. They found that relatively large amounts of fruit and vegetable intake correlated with high scores on a mental well-being test. “Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behaviour most consistently associated with mental well-being in both sexes,” they concluded. “Alcohol intake and obesity were associated with low, but not high mental well-being.”

“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,” they wrote.

Mental wellbeing was assessed using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale. Participants were asked to quantify how often over the past two weeks they agreed with statements like, “I’ve been feeling good about myself,” “I’ve had energy to spare,” and “I’ve been feeling optimistic about the future.” The top 15% of participants were categorized as having “high” mental wellbeing, and the bottom 15% were categorized as having “low” mental wellbeing.

Full text: Major health-related behaviours and mental well-being in the general population: the Health Survey for England (Stranges, Saverio et al. BMJ Open 2014;4:e005878 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005878)

Eating five a day may keep the blues away (University of Warwick Press Release, September 23, 2014)

Measuring Mental Well-being (NHS Health Scotland)

The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (NHS Health Scotland)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the interfaces between psychiatry, civil rights, the justice system, and social change. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, nine Western Magazine Awards, and five Webster Awards for journalism. He is currently working on a book about people's experiences of forced psychiatric treatment, and can be contacted through his website.

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