Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables can not only have a major impact on physical health, but on mental well-being as well, according to the results of a recent study.
While the effects of a healthy diet on physical health are already well established, recent evidence has begun to suggest that mental well-being could benefit from increased fruit and vegetable consumption as well.
In order to further explore this potential relationship, researchers used data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study, which contained approximately 50,000 individuals collected in 7 mainstage waves from 2009 to 2017. Specifically, they made use of data from participants in waves 2, 5, and 7 of the original study.
“The key advantage associated with the longitudinal nature of our dataset…is that we can relate changes in fruit and vegetable consumption to changes in self-reported well-being for the same individual over time,” the researchers explained.
The main outcome of the study was mental well-being, measured using the General Health Questionnaire 12 (GHQ-12), a screening instrument for psychiatric disorders and a measure of general mental well-being.
Overall, fixed effects regressions showed that mental well-being was impacted in a dose-response fashion to the increase of both quantity and frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption.
“These findings…could have important implications for public health practitioners, especially given the low rate of adherence to the national [nutritional] guidelines, as it suggests that even modest changes in the consumption patterns of individuals may translate into substantive positive effects for the well-being of large cohorts of the population.”
Ocean N, Howley P, Ensor J, et al. Lettuce be happy: A longitudinal UK study on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and well-being [published online January 7, 2019]. Soc Sci Med. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.12.017.