The World Health Organization recommends five servings of fruits and vegetable every day to keep the human body healthy, but how much is needed to keep your mind happy? That’s the question that researchers pursued in a new study.
The scientists will publish their findings in an upcoming issue of Social Indicators Research, but the pre-print is available through IDEAS directly. Economists and public health researchers at the University of Warwick, collaborating with Dartmouth College, used data from several randomized, cross-sectional surveys, which accounted for the eating habits of 80,000 people living in the UK. The consumption of fruits and vegetables were compared with their life satisfaction, mental well-being, presence of mental disorders, self-reported health, happiness, and nervousness.
A remarkably robust pattern was discovered. Happiness and mental health rose in an approximately dose-response way with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables that were consumed. The peak seemed to appear at seven portions per day.
In many cases of this survey, the improvements associated with this consumption were substantial. The findings are consistent with the need for high levels of fruit and vegetable consumption in order to maintain mental health, not just physical health.
While this isn’t a definitive randomized trial, this interesting correlation warrants more research. In the meantime, it probably wouldn’t hurt people if they started consuming more fruits and vegetables.
Reference: “Is Psychological Well-Being Linked to the Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables?” by David G. Blanchflower, Andrew J. Oswald and Sarah Stewart-Brown, 11 October 2012, Social Indicators Research.