A Neuroscientist Explains How Diet Can Impact Mood, Actions and A lot more

What we consume matters, and obtaining just the suitable quantity of vital vitamins is critical to our all round wellness.

Through the prolonged seafaring voyages of the 15th and 16th generations, a period of time that is recognised as the Age of Discovery, sailors expert visions of sublime meals and verdant fields. The discovery that these have been nothing more than hallucinations after months at sea was excruciating. When some sailors wept in longing, other people threw by themselves overboard.

It was suspected that the cure for these harrowing mirages would be a concoction of intricate chemical substances. Even so, it turned out that the antidote was fairly straightforward: lemon juice. These sailors suffered from scurvy, a sickness brought on by vitamin C deficiency, Vitamin C is an necessary micronutrient that men and women acquire from eating fruits and greens.

Vitamin C is critical for the generation and launch of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers used by the brain. Devoid of it, brain cells do not converse successfully with a person a further, which can lead to hallucinations.

As this famous illustration of early explorers illustrates, there is a shut connection in between foods and the mind, a single that scientists like myself are working to unravel. As a scientist who scientific studies the neuroscience of nourishment at the College of Michigan, I am mostly intrigued in how elements of food items and their breakdown products can modify the genetic recommendations that command our physiology.

Over and above that, one more goal of my investigate is being familiar with how food items can affect our thoughts, moods, and behaviors. Even though we just can’t nevertheless avoid or deal with mind conditions with food plan, experts this sort of as myself are understanding a great deal about the position that diet performs in the day to day brain processes that make us who we are.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a sensitive harmony of nutrition is important for mind overall health: Deficiencies or excesses in natural vitamins, sugars, fats, and Assorted Healthy Super Foods

Eating a complete diet that includes a balanced supply of all the essential vitamins and minerals is important for brain health.

Vitamins and mineral deficiencies

As with vitamin C, deficits in other vitamins and minerals can also lead to nutritional diseases that adversely impact the brain in humans. For instance, low dietary levels of vitamin B3/niacin – typically found in meat and fish – cause pellagra, a disease in which people develop dementia.

Niacin is essential for the body to turn food into energy and building blocks, protect the genetic blueprint from environmental damage, and control how much of certain gene products are made. In the absence of these critical processes, brain cells, also known as neurons, malfunction and die prematurely. This can lead to dementia.

In animal models, decreasing or blocking the production of niacin in the brain promotes neuronal damage and cell death. On the other hand, enhancing niacin levels has been shown to mitigate the effects of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s. Although the results are still inconclusive, observational studies in humans indicate that sufficient levels of niacin may protect against these diseases.

Interestingly, niacin deficiency caused by excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to similar effects as those found with pellagra.

Another example of how a nutrient deficiency affects brain function can be found in the element iodine, which, like niacin, must be acquired from one’s diet. It is present naturally in seafood and seaweed, and can also be obtained through iodized salt. Iodine is an essential building block for thyroid hormones – signaling molecules that are important for many aspects of human biology, including development, metabolism, appetite, and sleep. Low iodine levels prevent the production of adequate amounts of thyroid hormones, impairing these essential physiological processes.

Iodine is particularly important to the developing human brain. In fact, before table salt was supplemented with this mineral in the 1920s, iodine deficiency was a major cause of cognitive disability worldwide. The introduction of iodized salt is thought to have contributed to the gradual rise in IQ scores in the past century.

Keto Ketogenic Diet

A ketogenic diet may help people suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy.

Ketogenic diet for epilepsy

Not all dietary deficiencies are detrimental to the brain. In fact, research shows that people with drug-resistant epilepsy – a condition in which brain cells fire uncontrollably – can reduce the number of seizures by adopting an ultralow-carbohydrate regimen, known as a ketogenic diet, in which 80% to 90% of calories are obtained from fat.

Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source for the body. When they are not available – either because of fasting or because of a ketogenic diet – cells obtain fuel by breaking down fats into compounds called ketones. The utilization of ketones for energy leads to profound shifts in metabolism and physiology, including the levels of hormones circulating in the body, the amount of neurotransmitters produced by the brain, and the types of bacteria living in the gut.

Researchers think that these diet-dependent changes, especially the higher production of brain chemicals that can quiet down neurons and decrease levels of inflammatory molecules, may play a role in the ketogenic diet’s ability to lower the number of seizures. These changes may also explain the benefits of a ketogenic state – either through diet or fasting – on cognitive function and mood.

Some foods can negatively have an impact on your memory and mood.

Sugar, saturated fats, and extremely-processed food items

Extra stages of some nutrition can also have harmful outcomes on the mind. In humans and animal styles, elevated use of refined sugars and saturated fat – a blend commonly found in extremely-processed food items – promotes taking in by desensitizing the brain to the hormonal alerts recognized to control thoughts of fullness and fulfillment.

Apparently, a diet plan significant in these foods also desensitizes the flavor process, generating animals and humans perceive food as much less sweet. These sensory alterations might influence food choice as effectively as the reward we acquire from foodstuff. Exploration displays, for instance, that people’s responses to ice product in mind parts vital for flavor and reward are dulled when they take in it each and every day for two weeks. Some researchers think this reduce in food stuff reward alerts might improve cravings for even extra fatty and sugary foods, identical to the way smokers crave cigarettes.

High-body fat and processed-food diet programs are also affiliated with reduced cognitive purpose and memory in human beings and animal types as perfectly as a larger incidence of neurodegenerative disorders. Even so, scientists even now really don’t know if these consequences are thanks to these foodstuff or to the excess weight acquire and insulin resistance that produce with prolonged-expression use of these diet programs.

Time scales

This brings us to a significant facet of the outcome of diet regime on the brain: time. Some foodstuff can influence brain purpose and conduct acutely – these types of as above hours or times – while others choose months, months, or even yrs to have an influence.

For illustration, ingesting a slice of cake rapidly shifts the extra fat-burning, ketogenic rate of metabolism of an unique with drug-resistant epilepsy into a carbohydrate-burning rate of metabolism, expanding the risk of seizures. On the other hand, it takes weeks of sugar use for taste and the brain’s reward pathways to adjust, and months of vitamin C deficiency to create scurvy. Eventually, when it comes to conditions like lifestyle factors such as smoking.

In the end, the relationship between food and the brain is a bit like the delicate Goldilocks: We need not too little, not too much, but just enough of each nutrient.

Written by Monica Dus, Associate Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan.

This article was first published in The Conversation.The Conversation