A new study published in the BMJ Open suggests eating five a day is linked to better mental well-being.
Eating your “5 a day” increases changes of higher mental well-being, the researchers say.
A previous study suggested that consuming five portions of fruits and vegetables a day is the optimum amount for lowering the risk of death from any cause, which contradicts another study that suggested we should be eating seven portions of fruit and veg a day.
The researchers from this latest study, led by Dr. Saverio Stranges of the University of Warwick Medical School in the UK, used data from the Health Survey for England, which included nearly 14,000 adults over the age of 16.
This survey collected detailed information on the mental and physical health of the participants, as well as their health-related behaviors, demographics and socio-economic characteristics.
In addition, the team assessed the participants’ mental well-being using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, putting the top 15% of participants in the “high mental well-being” group, the bottom 15% in the low group, and those between 16-84% in the middle group.
‘The higher the veg and fruit intake, the lower the chance of low well-being’
Overall, the researchers found that high and low mental well-being were typically associated with the participants’ fruit and vegetable intake.
In detail, 35.5% of participants with high mental well-being ate five or more portions of fruits and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8% who consumed less than one portion.
Additionally, 31.4% of the individuals from the high mental well-being group ate three to four fruit and veg portions per day, and 28.4% ate one to two.
“The data suggest that [the] higher an individual’s fruit and vegetable intake, the lower the chance of their having low mental well-being,” says Dr. Stranges.
The researchers also considered other health-related behaviors – such as smoking, alcohol intake and obesity – and found that only smoking and fruit and vegetable intake were consistently associated with mental well-being.
Dr. Stranges explains:
“Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with both low and 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 well-being in the general population.”
Alcohol intake and obesity were associated with low, but not high mental well-being, the researchers add.
Enhancing well-being while preventing cancer
According to the team, high mental well-being is more than simply the absence of symptoms or illness – it is the condition of feeling good and functioning well. They add that optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships are also part of this mode of being.
According to co-author Prof. Sarah Stewart-Brown, mental illness “is hugely costly to both the individual and society, and mental well-being underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles and social inequalities in health.”
She says enabling people to maintain good well-being is important from a research perspective.
“Our findings add to the mounting evidence that fruit and vegetable intake could be one such factor and mean that people are likely to enhance their mental well-being at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer,” she adds.
When asked about whether the study accounted for physical activity, Dr. Stranges told Medical News Today that one of the limitations of the study was that such data “was not available in the Health Survey for England,” leaving room for further study
Are dietary interventions effective for treating ADHD? For many parents and professionals, trying to parse through the different claims about the impact of diet on ADHD has been challenging and confusing. At this point, substantial research on how dietary interventions impact ADHD has accumulated and several meta-analyses of this work have been published. Recently, a review of several meta-analyses of dietary interventions for ADHD was published [Research review: The role of diet in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder — an appraisal of the evidence on efficacy and recommendations on the design of future studies]. In this paper, the authors summarize findings across 6 different meta-analyses of the impact of diet on ADHD to provide a high level summary of the best available evidence to date.
Types of dietary interventions
Three types of dietary interventions were reviewed — Restricted Elimination Diets (RED), Artificial food coloring exclusion (AFCE), and supplementation with free fatty acids (SFFA). Although other types of supplements beyond free fatty acids have been investigated, the authors felt there was not sufficient research on any single approach to include in their summary.
1. Restricted elimination diets (RED) — There are 2 different approaches to implementing this diet. In one approach, the child is placed on an extremely restricted diet, e.g., rice, turkey, a range of vegetables (lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, beets), pears and water; this is sometimes referred to as the Few Food Diet. When a reduction in ADHD behaviors results — this would generally occur within 2–3 weeks if the diet is going to have a positive effect — new foods can be added back one at a time to see if they are well-tolerated or lead to an increase in problem behaviors. Alternatively, particular foods that are suspected to exacerbate a child’s symptoms may be removed one at a time to see if the child’s behavior improves.
2. Artificial food coloring exclusion (AFCE)- As the title indicates, this involves efforts to remove all artificial food colorings from a child’s diet, e.g.,Yellow #6, Yellow #5, Sodium Benzoate, Blue #2, etc., and observing whether this is associated with a reduction in ADHD behaviors. Carefully conducted trials have demonstrated that AFC’s – in amounts children could typically consume – can increase ADHD symptoms in many children.
3. Essential fatty acid supplementation — Certain fatty acids, e.g., Omega 3 and Omega 6, promote neural functioning. These fatty acids are called essential because they are not synthesized in the body and must be ingested. Children with ADHD may have lower levels of essential fatty acids relative to peers and several studies have demonstrated a link between low levels of EFAs and the severity of ADHD symptoms. Studies investigating the benefits of fatty acid supplementation for youth with ADHD raise fatty acid levels by administering capsules containing the fatty acids or sometimes by introducing diets rich in fish products.