Study: Not eating enough fruits and vegetables could lead to anxiety disorders

TORONTO, Ontario — It’s generally accepted that a healthy body can lead to a healthy mind. A recent study is backing that up by revealing your fruit and vegetable intake — or lack thereof — can lead to anxiety disorders. Researchers from the University of Toronto add that excessive body fat can also increase the risk of mental health issues.

“For those who consumed less than three sources of fruits and vegetables daily, there was at least at 24% higher odds of anxiety disorder diagnosis,” says study leader Karen Davison in a media release.

The Canadian Longitudinal Study of Aging analyzed 26,991 men and women between the ages 45 and 85. Co-author Jose Mora-Almanza explains that increasing body fat is an even greater threat to anxiety risks.

“As levels of total body fat increased beyond 36%, the likelihood of anxiety disorder was increased by more than 70%,” adds the researcher from Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

It’s not just poor diet that causes anxiety

Researchers say gender, income, marital standing, multiple health issues, and immigration status also plays a role in who is more at risk for anxiety. When it comes to gender, one in 15 men suffer an anxiety. The disorders are more common in women, as one in nine women deal with this issue.

“Our findings are in keeping with previous research which has also indicated that women are more vulnerable to anxiety disorders than men,” says co-author Karen Kobayashi from the University of Victoria.

Single people have a higher chance (13.9%) of having anxiety disorders than those who live with a partner (7.8%). One in five people with household incomes under $20,000 also deal with anxiety disorders. This figure is more than double that of a person making more income.

“Struggling to afford basics such as food and housing causes relentless stress and is inherently anxiety inducing,” explains Hongmei Tong, assistant professor of Social Work at MacEwan University in Edmonton.

Poor health, just like poor diet, also plays a big part in mental health dangers. Having three or more health conditions increases the chance of anxiety disorders compared to those without chronic issues, 16.4 percent to three percent.

Immigrants show strong mental resilience

One surprising finding result of the study is that immigrants in Canada have a lower chance of anxiety disorders than native Canadians (6.4% vs. 9.3%).

Immigrants may face a myriad of challenges associated with resettling in a new country, including language barriers, poverty, difficulties in getting qualifications recognized, and limited social support, so it seems counter-intuitive that they should have a lower likelihood of anxiety disorders than those born in Canada,” senior author Esme Fuller-Thomson says.

Study authors say about 10 percent of the world will eventually deal with anxiety disorders. They add this is a leading cause of future disabilities.

The study is published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

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