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Fruit and vegetable consumption and mental health across adolescence: Evidence from a diverse urban British cohort study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Article number19
JournalThe international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity
Issue number1
Accepted/In press29 Jan 2019
Published8 Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The DASH study was funded by the Medical Research Council (10.13039/N4 501100000265, MC_U130015185/MC_UU_12017/1/MC_UU_12017/13), North Central London Consortium, and the Primary Care Research Network. Publisher Copyright: © 2019 The Author(s). Copyright: Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


King's Authors


Background: Evidence on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption (FV) and mental health in adolescence is sparse and inconsistent. Social determinants of FV include ethnicity, family environments and economic disadvantage. We investigated the relationship between FV and mental health in the British multi-ethnic Determinants of Adolescents (now young Adult) Social well-being and Health (DASH) longitudinal study. Methods: A longitudinal study of 4683 adolescents living in London at age 11-13 years and followed up at 14-16 years. FV was measured using validated questions on the number of portions consumed daily. Mental health was measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire as mean Total Difficulties Score (TDS) and by classification as a 'probable clinical case' (TDS > 17). Social measures included ethnicity, parenting and socioeconomic circumstances. Multilevel modelling was used to investigate the association between FV and mental health throughout adolescence. Results: Low FV was common among adolescents, with approximately 60-70% of adolescents reporting < 5 portions/day and 20-30% reporting < 1 portion/day. In late adolescence, most ethnic minority groups reported lower FV than their White peers. In fully adjusted models, < 1 portion/day remained a significant correlate with mean TDS (Coef: 0.55, 0.29-0.81, P < 0.001) and TDS > 17 (Odds Ratio: 1.43, 1.11-1.85, P = 0.007). Gender- or ethnic-specific effects were not observed. Low parental care partly attenuated the association between FV and mental health. Conclusions: Low FV is a longitudinal correlate of poor mental health across adolescence. A focus on FV in parenting interventions could yield interrelated benefits across developmental outcomes given its importance to both physical and socioemotional health.

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