Background: Healthy dietary habits are known as a key factor for improving brain functions and cognitive ability in children and adolescents. The goal of this study was to evaluate the association of healthy food consumption with mental health in Iranian children and adolescents.
Materials and Methods: Data were obtained from the fourth national school-based surveillance survey entitled CASPIAN-IV study. In this study, 14880 children and adolescents aged 6-18 years were selected by multistage, cluster sampling method from rural and urban areas. The students and their parents completed two sets of questionnaires. The psychiatric distress included depression, worry, insomnia, anxiety, aggression, confusion, and worthless and the violent behaviors comprised of physical fight, victim and bully. The healthy foods included fresh fruits, dried fruits, vegetables and dairy products.
Results: The participants include 13,486 students from elementary, intermediate and high school degree. The prevalence of psychiatric distress was significantly higher among high school students, while violent behaviors were more prevalent in the middle school students. According to the multivariate model (model IV), the risk of psychiatric distress was significantly lower in students with daily consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables and milk. In addition, those with daily consumption of vegetables and milk had significantly lower risk for violent behaviors.
Conclusion: Consumption of healthy foods may reduce the risk of psychiatric distress and violent behaviors. Therefore, in addition to its benefits, increasing healthy food consumption among children and adolescents can be useful in preventing mental health disorders.