By: Source : University of East Anglia and Science Daily
New research finds that children who eat more fruit and veg have better mental health. The study is the first of its kind to investigate the association between fruit and vegetable intakes, breakfast and lunch choices, and mental wellbeing in school children. The research team, from the University of East Anglia in the UK, studied data from almost 9,000 children in 50 schools. They found that the types of breakfast and lunch eaten by both primary and secondary school pupils were significantly associated with mental wellbeing.
The study shows how eating more fruit and veg is linked with better wellbeing particularly with secondary school pupils. Moreover, children who consume five or more portions of fruit and veg a day have the highest scores for mental wellbeing.
The research team studied data from almost 9,000 children in 50 schools across Norfolk.
Children involved in the study self-reported their dietary choices and took part in age-appropriate tests of mental wellbeing that covered cheerfulness, relaxation, and having good interpersonal relationships.
The team looked at the association between nutritional factors and mental wellbeing and considered other factors that might have an impact -- such as adverse childhood experiences and home situations. They found that nutrition had as much or more of an impact on wellbeing as factors such as witnessing regular arguing or violence at home.
Their data showed only around 25 percent of secondary-school children and 28 percent of primary-school children reported eating the recommended five-a-day fruits and vegetables. Just under 10 percent of children were not eating any fruits or vegetables.
More than one in five secondary school children and one in ten primary school children didn't eat breakfast. And more than one in ten secondary school children didn't eat lunch.
Children who ate a traditional breakfast experienced better well-being than those who only had a snack or drink. But secondary school children who drank energy drinks for breakfast had particularly low mental wellbeing scores, even lower than for those children consuming no breakfast at all.
Poor mental wellbeing is a major issue for young people and is likely to have long-term negative consequences. The links between nutrition and physical health are well understood but up until now, not much was known about whether nutrition plays a part in children's emotional wellbeing.
Public health strategies and school policies should be developed to ensure that good quality nutrition is available to all children before and during school to optimise mental wellbeing and empower children to fulfill their full potential.
Public health strategies and school policies should be developed to ensure that good quality nutrition is available to all children both before and during school in order to optimise mental wellbeing and empower children to fulfill their full potential.
Richard Hayhoe, Boika Rechel, Allan B Clark, Claire Gummerson, S J Louise Smith, Ailsa A Welch. Cross-sectional associations of schoolchildren's fruit and vegetable consumption, and meal choices, with their mental well-being: a cross-sectional study. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, 2021; e000205 DOI: 10.1136/bmjnp
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