The first-ever randomized controlled study of community gardening, funded by the American Cancer Society, revealed that participants who began gardening increased their intake of dietary fiber and increased their levels of physical activity, both of which are known to lower the risk of cancer and other chronic illnesses. They also noticed their levels of stress and anxiety drastically reduce.
On January 4th, the results were published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health. Some modest observational studies have revealed that those who garden tend to consume more fruits and vegetables and have a better weight. However, it hasn’t been shown with certainty that healthier individuals naturally garden or that gardening has any effect on health.
The randomized controlled trial, the top standard of scientific research, has only been used three times on the hobby. Community gardens have not been the focus of any of these studies.
Ldad author Jill Litt recruited 291 non-gardening people, average age of 41, from the Denver region. Around two-thirds of them were of Hispanic origin, and more than half were from economically disadvantaged homes.
One group was ordered to wait a full year after the previous spring frost before beginning gardening, while the other was allocated to the communal gardening group.
The non-profit Denver Urban Gardens program and a research partner provided the gardening group with a community garden plot, seeds, and seedlings, as well as an introduction to gardening course.
All participants in both groups filled out questionnaires about their eating habits and mental health, had their heights and weights recorded, and wore activity trackers. By late October, the gardening group had increased their daily fiber intake by 1.4 grams, or roughly 7 percent, compared to the control group.
According to the scientists, dietary fiber has a significant impact on immunological and inflammatory responses, which in turn affects our susceptibility to diseases like diabetes and cancer.
The typical adult only gets approximately 16 grams of fiber per day, but experts prescribe 25 to 38 grams.
The gardening group also raised their physical activity levels by roughly 42 minutes each week. Only about a quarter of the U.S. population gets the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week, as recommended by public health officials. With only two to three trips to the community garden weekly, members reached 28% of that need.
Anxiety and stress levels were also shown to reduce among the trial participants, with the largest improvement seen in those who had the highest baseline levels of these problems to begin with.
It was also shown by the research that even first-year gardeners might have positive effects on their health. Litt thinks the advantages will grow as they gain expertise and see higher returns.