Five a day: UK children with healthy diets have best mental health | Mental Health
Children who eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day have the best mental health, according to the first study of its kind.
Higher consumption is associated with better mental well-being in high school students, and a nutritious breakfast and lunch are linked to the emotional well-being of students of all ages, research shows.
The findings, published in the journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health, prompted experts to call for the inclusion of good nutrition in public health strategies to improve children’s mental health. Data shows poor mental health among young people is skyrocketing.
A record number of people are seeking access to NHS mental health services, the Guardian reported last week. In just three months, nearly 200,000 young people were referred to mental health services, almost double the pre-pandemic levels, according to a report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
The new study is the first time that researchers have investigated the association between the amount of fruits and vegetables British schoolchildren eat, breakfast and lunch choices, and mental well-being.
Principal investigator Professor Ailsa Welch of Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia said:.
“We know that poor mental well-being is a major problem for young people and is likely to have negative long-term consequences.”
His team analyzed data from nearly 9,000 children in 50 Norfolk elementary and secondary schools from the Norfolk Child and Youth Health and Wellbeing Survey. Participants self-reported their food choices and took part in mental wellness tests covering cheerfulness, relaxation, and interpersonal relationships. The study took into account other factors that may have an impact, including adverse childhood experiences and family situations.
“In terms of nutrition, we found that only about a quarter of high school kids and 28% of elementary school kids reported eating the recommended five fruits and vegetables a day,” Welch said. “A little less than one in 10 children ate neither fruit nor vegetables.
“More than one in five secondary school children and one in ten elementary school children did not eat breakfast. And more than one in 10 high school kids didn’t eat breakfast.
Dr Richard Hayhoe, also of the Norwich Medical School, UEA, said: “Among high school students in particular, there was a very strong link between a nutritious diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, and better health. be mental. “
According to the data, in a class of 30 high school students, 21 will have eaten a conventional breakfast, and at least four will not have eaten or drunk anything before starting classes in the morning. Three students will enter the afternoon classes without lunch.
“Children who ate a traditional breakfast experienced better well-being than those who ate only a snack or a drink,” said Hayhoe. “But high school students who drank energy drinks for breakfast had particularly low mental well-being scores, even lower than those of children who didn’t eat breakfast at all.”
Welch added, “As a potentially modifiable factor at the individual and societal level, nutrition represents an important public health goal for strategies to address the mental well-being of children. “