Saturday January 25, 2020

Here’s How Diet Affects Your Mental Health

There are also practical difficulties which need to be overcome in testing diets. A food is not a drug, so it needs to be tested differently to a drug

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Lonely diet
People with food restrictions feel lonely as they are not able to take part in bonding over the meal. Pixabay

Diet significantly influences mental health and wellbeing, but this link is firmly established only in some areas such as the ability of a high fat and low carbohydrate diet (a ketogenic diet) to help children with epilepsy, and the effect of vitamin B12 deficiency on fatigue, poor memory, and depression, says a study.

The research, published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, cautions that the evidence of a ink between diet and mental health for many diets is comparatively weak.

“We have found that there is increasing evidence of a link between a poor diet and the worsening of mood disorders, including anxiety and depression. However, many common beliefs about the health effects of certain foods are not supported by solid evidence,” said lead author Suzanne Dickson, Professor at University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

The researchers who conducted a comprehensive review of studies linking diet with mental health also found that there is good evidence that a Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables and olive oil, shows mental health benefits, such as giving some protection against depression and anxiety.

However, for many foods or supplements, the evidence is inconclusive, as for example with the use of vitamin D supplements, or with foods believed to be associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism.

“With individual conditions, we often found very mixed evidence,” said Dickson.

“With ADHD for example, we can see an increase in the quantity of refined sugar in the diet seems to increase ADHD and hyperactivity, whereas eating more fresh fruit and vegetables seems to protect against these conditions.

“But there are comparatively few studies, and many of them don’t last long enough to show long-term effects,” she added.

Fad diets
According to nutrition experts, fad diets are failure as they are not sustainable. Lifetime Stock

The scientists confirmed that some foods had readily provable links to mental health, for example, that nutrition in the womb and in early life can have significant effects on brain function in later life.

Proving the effect of diet on mental health in the general population was more difficult.

“In healthy adults dietary effects on mental health are fairly small, and that makes detecting these effects difficult: it may be that dietary supplementation only works if there are deficiencies due to a poor diet,” Dickson said.

“We also need to consider genetics: subtle differences in metabolism may mean that some people respond better to changes in diet than others,” she added.

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There are also practical difficulties which need to be overcome in testing diets. A food is not a drug, so it needs to be tested differently to a drug.

We can give someone a dummy pill to see if there is an improvement due to the placebo effect, but you can’t easily give people dummy food.

“There is a general belief that dietary advice for mental health is based on solid scientific evidence. In reality, it is very difficult to prove that specific diets or specific dietary components contribute to mental health,” Dickson said. (IANS)

Next Story

Here’s Why Stress Can Make Your Hair Go Gray

The researchers found that stress causes these nerves to release the chemical norepinephrine, which gets taken up by nearby pigment-regenerating stem cells

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Stress
The research, published in the journal Nature, found that stress activates nerves that are part of the fight-or-flight response, which in turn cause permanent damage to pigment-regenerating stem cells in hair follicles. Pixabay

Those annoying gray hair that tend to crop up with age really are signs of stress, according to a new study.

The research, published in the journal Nature, found that stress activates nerves that are part of the fight-or-flight response, which in turn cause permanent damage to pigment-regenerating stem cells in hair follicles.

“We wanted to understand if this connection is true, and if so, how stress leads to changes in diverse tissues. Hair pigmentation is such an accessible and tractable system to start with — and besides, we were genuinely curious to see if stress indeed leads to hair graying,” said study senior author Ya-Chieh Hsu from Harvard University in the US.

Because stress affects the whole body, researchers first had to narrow down which body system was responsible for connecting stress to hair colour.

The team first hypothesised that stress causes an immune attack on pigment-producing cells. However, when mice lacking immune cells still showed hair graying, researchers turned to the hormone cortisol. But once more, it was a dead end. “Stress always elevates levels of the hormone cortisol in the body, so we thought that cortisol might play a role,” Hsu said.

“But surprisingly, when we removed the adrenal gland from the mice so that they couldn’t produce cortisol-like hormones, their hair still turned gray under stress,” Hsu added. After systematically eliminating different possibilities, researchers honed in on the sympathetic nerve system, which is responsible for the body’s fight-or-flight response.

Sympathetic nerves branch out into each hair follicle on the skin. The researchers found that stress causes these nerves to release the chemical norepinephrine, which gets taken up by nearby pigment-regenerating stem cells. In the hair follicle, certain stem cells act as a reservoir of pigment-producing cells.

When hair regenerates, some of the stem cells convert into pigment-producing cells that colour the hair. Researchers found that the norepinephrine from sympathetic nerves causes the stem cells to activate excessively. The stem cells all convert into pigment-producing cells, prematurely depleting the reservoir.

Big Mouth, Yelling, Loud, Girl, Face, Person, Woman
Those annoying gray hair that tend to crop up with age really are signs of stress, according to a new study. Pixabay

To connect stress with hair graying, the researchers started with a whole-body response and progressively zoomed into individual organ systems, cell-to-cell interaction and eventually all the way down to molecular dynamics. “We know that peripheral neurons powerfully regulate organ function, blood vessels, and immunity, but less is known about how they regulate stem cells,” said study researcher Isaac Chiu.

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“With this study, we now know that neurons can control stem cells and their function, and can explain how they interact at the cellular and molecular level to link stress with hair graying,” Chiu added. (IANS)