Eating fruits five times a day keeps mental health in tact and is good for aged people who face the prospects of dementia and Alzheimer’s more than young adults, according to a health survey conducted in the UK.
The study published in the journal BMJ Open suggests eating five a day is linked to better mental well-being and is helpful in lowering the risk of death from any cause, it said.
Dr. Saverio Stranges of the University of Warwick Medical School, who led the group of reserchers studied data from the Health Survey for England, which examined 13,983 adults, aged 16 years and older (56% females), with valid responses for the combined 2010 and 2011 surveys.
Mental well-being was assessed using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS). ORs of low and high mental well-being, compared to the middle-range category, were estimated for body mass index (BMI), smoking, drinking habits, and fruit and vegetable intake.
It showed that 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. About 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. “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.”
Results ORs for low mental well-being were increased in obese individuals (up to 1.72, 95% CI 1.26 to 2.36 in BMI 40+ kg/m2). They increased in a linear fashion with increasing smoking (up to 1.98, 95% CI 1.55 to 2.53, >20 cigarettes/day) and with decreasing fruit and vegetable intake (up to 1.53, 95% CI 1.24 to 1.90, <1 portion/day); whereas ORs were reduced for sensible alcohol intake (0.78, 95% CI 0.66 to 0.91, ≤4 units/day in men, ≤3 units/day in women).
ORs for high mental well-being were not correlated with categories of BMI or alcohol intake. ORs were reduced among ex-smokers (0.81, 95% CI 0.71 to 0.92), as well as with lower fruit and vegetable intake (up to 0.79, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.92, 1 to <3 portions/day).
More than keeping symptoms of mental illness subdued, fruits intake helps individuals feel good and function well with positive attitude, optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships, said co-author Prof. Sarah Stewart-Brown. She said 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.”