Food and Behaviour Research

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Let them eat fruit! The effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on psychological well-being in young adults: A randomized controlled trial

Conner TS, Brookie KL, Carr AC, Mainvil LA, Vissers MC (2017) PLoS One. 12(2): e0171206. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171206. eCollection 2017 

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Abstract:

This study tested the psychological benefits of a 14-day preregistered clinical intervention to increase fruit and vegetable (FV) consumption in 171 low-FV-consuming young adults (67% female, aged 18-25).

Participants were randomly assigned into a diet-as-usual control condition, an ecological momentary intervention (EMI) condition involving text message reminders to increase their FV consumption plus a voucher to purchase FV, or a fruit and vegetable intervention (FVI) condition in which participants were given two additional daily servings of fresh FV to consume on top of their normal diet.

Self-report outcome measures were depressive symptoms and anxiety measured pre- and post-intervention, and daily negative and positive mood, vitality, flourishing, and flourishing behaviors (curiosity, creativity, motivation) assessed nightly using a smartphone survey. Vitamin C and carotenoids were measured from blood samples pre- and post-intervention, and psychological expectancies about the benefits of FV were measured post-intervention to test as mediators of psychological change.

Only participants in the FVI condition showed improvements to their psychological well-being with increases in vitality, flourishing, and motivation across the 14-days relative to the other groups. No changes were found for depressive symptoms, anxiety, or mood. Intervention benefits were not mediated by vitamin C, carotenoids, or psychological expectancies. We conclude that providing young adults with high-quality FV, rather than reminding them to eat more FV (with a voucher to purchase FV), resulted in significant short-term improvements to their psychological well-being.

These results provide initial proof-of-concept that giving young adults fresh fruit and vegetables to eat can have psychological benefits even over a brief period of time.

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