Children who eat more fruit and vegetables in their diet have better mental wellbeing, according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).
The study is the first to investigate the association between fruit and vegetable intakes, breakfast and lunch choices, and mental wellbeing in UK schoolchildren. It shows how eating more fruit and vegetables is linked with better wellbeing, among secondary school pupils in particular. Children who consumed five or more portions of fruit and veg a day had the highest scores for mental wellbeing.
The study was led by UEA Health and Social Care Partners in collaboration with Norfolk County Council and involved almost 9,000 children.
Lead researcher Prof Ailsa Welch, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “In terms of nutrition, we found that only around a quarter of secondary schoolchildren and 28% of primary schoolchildren reported eating the recommended five-a-day fruits and vegetables.
“And just under one in 10 children were not eating any fruits or vegetables. More than one in five secondary schoolchildren and one in 10 primary children didn’t eat breakfast. And more than one in 10 secondary schoolchildren didn’t eat lunch.”
Children who ate a traditional breakfast experienced better wellbeing than those who only had a snack or drink. Secondary schoolchildren who drank energy drinks for breakfast had particularly low mental wellbeing scores, even lower than for those children consuming no breakfast at all.
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.
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