Children who eat more fruit and veg have better mental wellbeing, according to new research from the University of East Anglia.
The research team studied data from almost 9,000 children in 50 schools and found that the types of breakfast and lunch eaten by both primary and secondary school pupils were significantly associated with wellbeing. Children who ate a traditional breakfast experienced better wellbeing than those who only had a snack or drink. Those who consumed five or more portions of fruit and veg a day had the highest scores for mental wellbeing. They also found that nutrition had as much or more of an impact on wellbeing as factors such as witnessing regular arguing or aggression at home.
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 reach their full potential.
Lead researcher Prof Ailsa Welch, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, commented: ‘We know that poor mental wellbeing is a major issue for schoolchildren and is likely to have long-term negative consequences.
‘While the links between nutrition and physical health are well understood, until now, not much has been known about whether nutrition plays a part in children’s emotional wellbeing. So, we set out to investigate.
‘In terms of nutrition, we found one in 10 primary school children don’t eat breakfast and only around 28 per cent eat the recommended five-a-day fruits and vegetables. Just under one in 10 children in the study did not eat any fruits or vegetables.’