Fruit, veggie consumption may improve mental health

October 6, 2014

A study published in BMJ Open shows that mental wellbeing may be associated with an individual’s fruit and vegetable consumption. The research involved 13,983 participants in England ages 16+, as part of the Health Survey for England—which collected detailed information collected on mental and physical health, health related behaviors, demographics, and socio-economic characteristics.

Mental wellbeing was assessed using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS), in which the top 15% of participants categorized as having “high” mental wellbeing, the bottom 15% “low,” and the middle 16–84% as “middle.”

The researchers found that 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. Other health-related behaviors 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.

“Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with both low and high mental wellbeing,” said author Saverio Stranges, University of Warwick Medical School. “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.