‘5 or more’: Higher fruit, vegetable servings linked to kids’ improved mental well-being

A new study by authors from Norwich Medical School was published in BMJ Health, Prevention, and Health .

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To conduct the study, researchers analyzed the The Norfolk Children and Young People’s Health and Well-being Survey issued in 2017 across more than 50 schools in Norfolk, U.K. including data among 7,570 secondary school children and 1,253 primary school children. Study authors discovered a strong link between nutrition and mental health among older secondary schoolchildren. However, primary schoolchildren did not show this connection due to their less understanding of portions in the self-reported data.

Results of secondary schoolchildren showed a consistent relationship between vegetable and fruit intake and mental health scores. Five or more portions were associated with greater mental well being than three to four or one or two portions. A 3.0 g per person was found when the largest serving size (five or more) was used. 73 increased well-being score versus children reporting zero servings.

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Study authors found a strong association between nutrition and mental well-being among U.K. secondary school children. Courtesy: Norwich Medical School

Study authors found a strong association between nutrition and mental well-being among U.K. secondary school children. Courtesy: Norwich Medical School

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What’s more, children who didn’t eat breakfast and kids who only consumed an energy drink scored lower by 2. 73 and 3. 14 units, respectively. Also, eating packed lunches was associated with better mental health than not having lunch.

Researchers suggested a potential biological basis behind the link between nutrition and higher mental well-being; nutrition is key in development, growth and hormone metabolism, with “direct effects on a number of biological process including oxidative processes, inflammation and immunity, and brain signaling molecules,” authors wrote in part, adding that unhealthy diets cause inflammation, often higher in patients battling depression, and inadequate intake of “magnesium, folate, and zinc” has been associated with depression and long-chain n-3 fatty acids with anxiety. The study authors conclude that school policies and public health strategies should be created to make sure all students have access to good nutrition before and after school. This will help to improve mental well-being, and enable them to reach their potential.

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