Fruit and vegetable intake is inversely associated with perceived stress across the adult lifespan
Poor nutritional habits are linked to higher perceived stress, but the relationship between fruit and vegetable (FV) intake and stress is uncertain. The primary aim of this cross-sectional study was to explore the relationship between FV intake and perceived stress in a population-based cohort of men and women aged ≥25 years from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle (AusDiab) Study. A secondary aim was to investigate the relationship between serum carotenoids, biomarkers of FV intake, and perceived stress.
In Australian men and women, dietary intake was assessed using a Food Frequency Questionnaire in 1999–2000 (n = 8689). Perceived stress was assessed using a validated Perceived Stress Questionnaire [PSQ index values ranging from 0 (lowest) to 1 (highest)]. Serum carotenoids were measured in a subset of participants (n = 1187) using high-performance liquid chromatography. Multivariable-adjusted linear and logistic regression were performed to investigate the associations between FV intake and perceived stress.
Mean age of participants was 47.4 (SD 14.1) years (49.8% females). Participants with the highest intakes of FV had 10% lower PSQ index values than those with the lowest intake [Q4: 0.27 ± 0.004 vs. Q1: 0.30 ± 0.004 (mean ± SE), p = 0.004]. Similar associations were found for fruits and vegetables, analysed separately. In subgroup analyses higher FV intake was associated with lower perceived stress in the middle-aged adults [≥45-<65 years (p = 0.004)], but not in the younger (<45 years) and older participants (≥65 years). Higher FV intake was also significantly associated with lower perceived stress in men (p = 0.009) and women (p = 0.012), separately. Serum carotenoid levels were inversely associated with perceived stress before, but not after adjusting for age and other confounding factors.
In Australian adults, higher FV intake was associated with lower perceived stress, particularly in the middle-aged adults. These findings support current recommendations that fruit and vegetables are essential for health and well-being.
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