A landmark survey by Japanese scientists that included responses from 90,000 people suggests that eating “healthy” food such as vegetables, seaweed and fruit just might save your life – and in more ways than you think. The survey revealed that people with a higher proportion of fruit and vegetables in their diet have a significantly lower risk of committing suicide. The study, conducted over eight and a half years, is the first in the world to examine the association between dietary patterns and suicide risk. It concludes that eating fruit and vegetables reduces the risk of suicide by as much as 50 percent.
The research was spearheaded by the National Centre for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo, monitoring the eating habits of nearly 90,000 people between the ages of 45 and 74. Around 60 per cent of those who took part were female. Participants in the study were marked by the amount of vegetables, fruit and seaweed they consumed each day. In all, the scientists monitored intakes of 124 food and beverage items through a daily questionnaire. “Among both men and women, a ‘prudent’ dietary pattern characterized by a high intake of vegetables, fruit, potatoes, soy products, mushrooms, seaweed and fish was associated with a decreased risk of suicide,” the scientists stated in their report, which was published in the December edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry. The results properly show that the risk for both men and women in the group that ate the most fruit and vegetables was less than half that for the group with the lowest consumption of the same food items.
The study was headed by Akiko Nanri, of Japan’s national health center, but included input from universities and medical research organizations across Japan. Nanri said that the results of their landmark survey notwithstanding, it would still be difficult to determine precisely a relationship between dietary habits and suicide. She did point out that fruit and vegetables contained folic acid and vitamin C, both of which have been credited with alleviating the symptoms of depression. Food rich in folic acid – which is frequently given to pregnant women to help in the development of their baby – include spinach, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, bananas, oranges, peaches, lentils, almonds, wheat flour and potatoes.
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