Genetic and environmental influences on fruit and vegetable consumption and depression in older adults

Publication Name

BMC Geriatrics


Background: Prior work suggests that higher fruit and vegetable consumption may protect against depression in older adults. Better understanding of the influence of genetic and environmental factors on fruit and vegetable intakes may lead to the design of more effective dietary strategies to increase intakes. In turn this may reduce the occurrence of depression in older adults. Objectives: The primary aim of this study is to estimate the genetic and environmental influences on the consumption of fruit and vegetables in older adults. The secondary aim is an exploratory analysis into possible shared genetic influences on fruit and vegetable intakes and depression. Methods: Analysis of observational data from 374 twins (67.1% female; 208 monozygotic (MZ); 166 dizygotic (DZ)) aged ≥ 65 years drawn from the Older Australian Twins Study. Dietary data were obtained using a validated food frequency questionnaire and depressive symptoms were measured using the 15-item short form Geriatric Depression Scale. The contribution of genetic and environmental influences on fruit and vegetable intake were estimated by comparing MZ and DZ twin intakes using structural equation modelling. A tri-variate twin model was used to estimate the genetic and environmental correlation between total fruit and vegetable intakes and depression. Results: In this study, vegetable intake was moderately influenced by genetics (0.39 95%CI 0.22, 0.54). Heritability was highest for brassica vegetables (0.40 95%CI 0.24, 0.54). Overall fruit intake was not significantly heritable. No significant genetic correlations were detected between fruit and vegetable intake and depressive symptoms. Conclusions: Vegetable consumption, particularly bitter tasting brassica vegetables, was significantly influenced by genetics, although environmental influences were also apparent. Consumption of fruit was only influenced by the environment, with no genetic influence detected, suggesting strategies targeting the food environment may be particularly effective for encouraging fruit consumption.

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Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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