Media says: For Happiness, Eat More Fruits & Veggies

- POSTED ON: Oct 14, 2012

Yesterday, my article was about the

Difference between Correlation and Causation.

Below are two examples of media
handling the same recent health research study.



7 Daily Servings of Fruits, Veggies Best for Happiness,
Study Finds
'Strive for 5' might need an update
Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) 

"People who eat seven servings of fruit and vegetables a day have the highest levels of happiness and mental health, according to a new study.

In a joint effort with Dartmouth University, researchers at the University of Warwick examined the eating habits of 80,000 people in England and found that mental well-being rose with the number of daily servings of fruits and vegetables, peaking at seven servings a day.

The study, which appears in the journal Social Indicators Research, defied a serving as about 80 grams (2.8 ounces).

"The statistical power of fruit and vegetables was a surprise. Diet has traditionally been ignored by well-being researchers," study co-author Sarah Stewart-Brown, a professor of public health, said in a university news release.

Further research is needed to learn more about the reasons behind the findings, she added.

"This study has shown surprising results, and I have decided it is prudent to eat more fruit and vegetables. I am keen to stay cheery," study co-author Andrew Oswald, a professor in the economics department, said in the news release.

Currently, many Western governments recommend that people eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day to protect against heart disease and cancer, the release noted.

While the study found an association between fruit and vegetable servings and well-being, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship


 Here’s another take on the same Research.

Study: If You're 'Keen to Stay Cheery,'
7 Fruits and Vegetables a Day
        By Lindsay Abrams 
        Oct 14, 2012 (the Atlantic)

"On the psychological side of dietary recommendations

PROBLEM: We go on about eating for health, but we're usually talking about the physical side. The World Health Organization recommends five servings of fruits and vegetables a day for your body, but not much is known about how much is best for psychological well-being.

METHODOLOGY: Economists and public health researchers from the University of Warwick, in conjunction with Dartmouth College, used data from several randomized, cross-sectional surveys that accounted for the eating habits of about 80,000 people living in the U.K. The fruits and vegetables typically consumed by each person were compared with their life satisfaction, mental well-being, presence of mental disorders, self-reported health, happiness, nervousness, and how often they "feel low."

They factored in as many variables as they could think of, including other the rest of their diets, alcohol, and lots of demographic, social and economic factors.

: A "remarkably robust" pattern was found, in which "happiness and mental health rise in an approximately dose-response way with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables." While in some cases it rounds out at the recommended five per day, well-being appears to peak at seven.

In many cases, the improvements associated with fruit and vegetable consumption were substantial. For example, the authors explain that "When comparing small and large levels of fruit and vegetable consumption per day, the effect corresponds to between 0.25 and 0.33 life-satisfaction points. To put that in perspective, the known (huge) effect of being unemployed corresponds to a loss of 0.90 of a life-satisfaction point."

CONCLUSION: The findings are "consistent with the need for high levels of fruit-and-vegetable consumption for mental health and not merely for physical health."

IMPLICATIONS: This isn't a definitive randomized trial, but it's an interesting correlation that warrants more research. Economist Andrew Oswald in the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick seems pretty convinced, though. As he put it, "This study has shown surprising results and I have decided it is prudent to eat more fruit and vegetables. I am keen to stay cheery."

Aren't we all, Professor Oswald. Aren't we all.

The full study, "Is Psychological Well-being Linked to the Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables?" will be published in the journal Social Indicators Research.


 At the end, both of these articles specifically admit that this study involves only a correlation, not causation.

However, do you join me in thinking that a typical reader of these articles will come away believing that new research says that they would probably be happier if they ate more fruits and veggies? And… that one of the reasons they now feel unhappy, could be because they don’t eat ENOUGH fruits and vegetables?

Leave me a comment.

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Existing Comments:

On Oct 15, 2012 wrote:
Well, just like 'Big Pharma', everytime i hear of a 'media' study, the first things that pop into my mind is. Who conducted this study, what type of study, who benefits from the results? In the case mentioned I would have to say it was the Vegetable Growers and the Fruit Growers(Del-Monte) comes to mind. Hmmmm sales mut be off. Recently on the news in Florida they were monitoring what the children that participate in the "School Lunch Program" were throwing away.....Yes, you guessed it....the vegetables and fruits. Speaking for myself I only eat two vegetables carrots and broccoli and only a half cup of each. As for fruits if I want a fruit I'll get one; but only one.

On Oct 15, 2012 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Hi John. I find that eating fruit tends to stack up my calories, so when eating it, I use careful portion control. Remember 1/2 a banana is considered one serving. And since it seems like most apples are big, not "small" or "medium", I usually consider 1/2 an apple to be one serving. Also, I personally usually consider 1/2 cup of veggies (except for green lettuce salad-which I consider 1 serving to be 1 cup) to be 1 serving. When I have corn, carrots, peas or beans often I make 1/4 cup my serving. Currently I'm experimenting with eating a bit more veggies because eating portion-controlled amounts of them can be helpful to stretch out my day's food, but when I add oil or butter or have starchy ones, it can really skyrocket my calories. While vegetables or fruits aren't my favorite foods, I usually would rather have them along with my small protein (& sometimes grain) allotment than have nothing.

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