Higher Fruit and Vegetable Intake Linked with Mental Health

Fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as smoking, were the health related behaviors most associated with metal wellness in both men and women, according to a recent study.

“Mental illness is hugely costly to both the individual and society, and mental wellbeing underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles and social inequalities in health. It has become very important that we begin to research the factors that enable people to maintain a sense of wellbeing,” said Sarah Steward-Brown, MD, co-author of the study and the Chair of Public Health at Warwick Medical School.

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For the study, researchers evaluated data of 14,000 English participants from the Health Survey for England, which included information on their health-related behaviors, demographics, socio-economics, and mental and physical health. Of the participants (ages 16 years and older), 56% were female and 44% were male.

The investigators measured the mental wellness of participants using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, which labeled the top 15% of individuals as "high" mental wellbeing, the middle (16% to 84%) were categorized as "middle", and the bottom 15% were considered "low."

The study showed that 35% of participants in the high mental health category consumed 5 or more portions of fruits and vegetables every day, compared to 6.8% of individuals who consumed less than 1 full portion.

Researchers found that 31.4% of high-mental wellness individuals consumed 3 to 4 fruits and vegetable portions every day and 28.4% of the group consumed 1 to 2 portions daily.

While other behaviors (such as BMI and drinking habits) were found to be associated with mental health, only smoking and fruit and vegetable consumption were consistently, inversely associated.

“Our findings add to the mounting evidence that fruit and vegetable intake could be one such factor and mean that people are likely to be able to enhance their mental wellbeing at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer,” she said.

Investigators noted that the greater daily intake of fruit and vegetables for an individual, the lower chance he or she has to manifest a low mental-wellbeing.

The complete study is published in the September issue of BMJ Open.

-Michelle Canales


Stranges S, Samaraweera PC, Taggart F, et al. Major health-related behaviours and mental well-being in the general population: the Health Survey for England. BMJ Open. 2014 September [epub ahead of print] doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005878.

Warwick. Eating five a day may keep the blues away. September 23, 2014. Accessed September 25, 2014.