Scientists have shown through a study that children who have a diet of fruits and vegetables have a better mental health.
The research by University of East Anglia researchers is the first of its kind to investigate a relationship between mental wellbeing and diet involving fruit and vegetable intakes, breakfast and lunch choices in UK school children.
The study found that children who consumed five or more portions of fruit and veg a day had the highest scores for mental wellbeing.
The research team say that 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 fulfil their full potential.
The research team studied data from almost 9,000 children in 50 schools across Norfolk (7,570 secondary and 1,253 primary school children) taken from the Norfolk children and Young People’s Health and wellbeing Survey.
This survey was commissioned by the Public Health department of Norfolk County Council and the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board. It was open to all Norfolk schools during October 2017.
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 took into account other factors that might have an impact – such as adverse childhood experiences and home situations.
Scientists say that children who ate a traditional breakfast experienced better wellbeing 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.
As a potentially modifiable factor at an individual and societal level, nutrition represents an important public health target for strategies to address childhood mental wellbeing, scientists said.