Children who eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day have the best mental health, according to the first study of its kind.
The findings, published in the BMJ Nutrition and Health Journal, show that a higher intake of fruit and veg is associated with better mental wellbeing among secondary school pupils, and a nutritious breakfast and lunch is linked to emotional wellbeing in pupils of all ages.
The study has since prompted experts to call for the inclusion of good nutrition in public health strategies to help boost children’s mental health.
It comes as data indicates that poor mental health among young people is soaring. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, nearly 200,000 young people were referred to mental health services in the last three months, almost double pre-pandemic levels.
This new study investigated the association between how much fruit and vegetables UK schoolchildren eat, breakfast and lunch choices, and mental wellbeing.
The team analysed data from almost 9,000 children in 50 primary and secondary schools using self-reported dietary choices, mental wellbeing tests covering cheerfulness, relaxation and interpersonal relationships as well as external factors including adverse childhood experiences and home situations.
According to the data, in a class of 30 secondary pupils, 21 will have had a conventional breakfast, and at least four will have had nothing to eat or drink before starting classes in the morning. Three pupils will go into afternoon classes without any lunch.
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