Study: If You're 'Keen to Stay Cheery,' 7 Fruits and Vegetables a Day

More

On the psychological side of dietary recommendations

happyfruit615.jpgSee how happy this watermelon is? ...Do you, though? [WTLphotography/Flickr]

PROBLEM: We go on about eating for health, but we're usually talking about the physical side. The World Health Organization recommends five servings of fruits and vegetables a day for your body, but not much is known about how much is best for psychological well-being. 

METHODOLOGY: Economists and public health researchers from the University of Warwick, in conjunction with Dartmouth College, used data from several randomized, cross-sectional surveys that accounted for the eating habits of about 80,000 people living in the U.K. The fruits and vegetables typically consumed by each person were compared with their life satisfaction, mental well-being, presence of mental disorders, self-reported health, happiness, nervousness, and how often they "feel low." 

They factored in as many variables as they could think of, including other the rest of their diets, alcohol, and lots of demographic, social and economic factors.

RESULTS: A "remarkably robust" pattern was found, in which "happiness and mental health rise in an approximately dose-response way with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables." While in some cases it rounds out at the recommended five per day, well-being appears to peak at seven.

In many cases, the improvements associated with fruit and vegetable consumption were substantial. For example, the authors explain that "When comparing small and large levels of fruit and vegetable consumption per day, the effect corresponds to between 0.25 and 0.33 life-satisfaction points. To put that in perspective, the known (huge) effect of being unemployed corresponds to a loss of 0.90 of a life-satisfaction point."

CONCLUSION: The findings are "consistent with the need for high levels of fruit-and-vegetable consumption for mental health and not merely for physical health."

IMPLICATIONS: This isn't a definitive randomized trial, but it's an interesting correlation that warrants more research. Economist Andrew Oswald in the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick seems pretty convinced, though. As he put it, "This study has shown surprising results and I have decided it is prudent to eat more fruit and vegetables. I am keen to stay cheery." 

Aren't we all, Professor Oswald. Aren't we all.

The full study, "Is Psychological Well-being Linked to the Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables?" will be published in the journal Social Indicators Research.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon and a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Health Channel.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

What makes a story great? The storytellers behind House of CardsThis American LifeThe Moth, and more reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In