Not Eating Enough Fruit and Vegetables Linked with Increased Risk of Anxiety Disorders

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New Canadian research has found that eating less than three portions of fruit and vegetables per day appears to be linked to a higher risk of having an anxiety disorder.

Led by researchers from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia, the new study looked at data gathered from 26,991 men and women between the ages of 45 and 85 taking part in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging.

From the data, the researchers found that participants who ate less than three portions of fruit and veg per day had at least a 24 percent higher chance of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

The findings, which are published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, also showed that as a participant’s levels of total body fat increased past 36 percent, the likelihood of anxiety disorder increased by more than 70 percent, which the researchers say could be partly explained by the lack of fruit and vegetables in the diet.

“Increased body fat may be linked to greater inflammation. Emerging research suggests that some anxiety disorders can be linked to inflammation,” explained lead author Karen Davison.

The researchers also found that in addition to diet and measures of body fat, the rate of anxiety disorders among the participants also appeared to be linked to gender, marital status, income, immigrant status and several health issues. While one in nine women had an anxiety disorder, just one in 15 men had been diagnosed with anxiety; 13.9 percent of participants who had always been single had been diagnosed with a disorder compared to 7.8 percent of those who lived with a partner; rates of anxiety were almost double among those with household incomes under $20,000 per year compared to wealthier participants; rates of anxiety among those with three or more health conditions was 16.4 percent compared to 3 percent among those with no chronic conditions; and 6.4 percent of immigrants to Canada had anxiety disorders compared to the 9.3 percent of participants born in Canada.

The results were unsurprising for the researchers, with previous researchers suggesting that women are more vulnerable to anxiety disorders than men, while factors such as poverty and chronic pain can be stressful and anxiety-producing situations to be in.

“It is estimated that 10 percent of the global population will suffer from anxiety disorders which are a leading cause of disability” says Davison “Our findings suggest that comprehensive approaches that target health behaviors, including diet, as well as social factors, such as economic status, may help to minimize the burden of anxiety disorders among middle-aged and older adults, including immigrants.”

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