Those who garden have a lower risk of cancer and better mental health

Barcelona: – Gardening and horticulture help reduce cancer risk and improve mental health, according to a study involving the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), which found that gardeners eat more fibre, are more physically active and experience less stress and anxiety.

The study, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, was led by a science team from the University of Colorado Boulder in collaboration with ISGlobal, a center promoted by Fundación La Caixa.

said Jill Lett, lead author of the study, an ISGlobal researcher and professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Litt has spent most of his career finding affordable, scalable, and sustainable ways to reduce disease risk, particularly among low-income communities.

“Wherever you go, people say there is something about gardening that makes them feel better,” explained the researcher, who investigated how difficult it is to find hard scientific data on its benefits.

A woman tends to her plants in a courtyard in Córdoba. efe / rooms / file

Some small observational studies have found that people who garden tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and have a healthy weight, but it is not clear whether healthy people simply tend to garden or whether gardening affects health.

According to Litt, only three studies applied a randomized controlled trial, but none focused specifically on community gardening.

So the researchers recruited 291 non-gardening adults from the Denver, Colorado, area, with an average age of 41, and more than half of them from low-income families.

Eat more fiber and reduce stress and anxiety

Half of the volunteers were assigned to a community gardening group, while the other half was a control group who had to wait a year to start gardening.

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Both groups took regular surveys about their nutritional intake and mental health, underwent anthropometric measurements and wore activity monitors.

Thus, the researchers found that participants in the gardening group consumed, on average, 1.4 grams more fiber per day than those in the control group, representing an increase of 7%.

The authors note that fiber has a profound impact on immune and inflammatory responses, affecting everything from how you metabolize food to the health of your gut microbiome and susceptibility to diabetes and certain types of cancer.

In addition, this group also increased their levels of physical activity by about 42 minutes per week.

Study participants also noticed that their levels of stress and anxiety decreased.

“Even if you come to the garden with the intention of growing your own food in a quiet space, you start to look at your neighbor’s scheme and share techniques and recipes, and over time the relationships blossom,” Litt added. from community gardening.

“It’s not just about fruits and vegetables. It’s also about being in a natural outdoor space with other people,” he concluded. EFEgreen

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