Can fruit and vegetables improve the mental health of children? A recent survey suggests that it can alongside a full and varied diet. Read more in this week’s Nutrition News.

Association between fruit and vegetables and better mental health in children

Research from the University of East Anglia has suggested that children who eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables have a better mental state and cognitive health than their peers who eat less than the recommended five portions a day.

The research, which was covered by Science Daily and took into account data from 9,000 children across 50 primary and secondary schools in Norfolk, found that as few as a quarter of secondary school children and just 28 percent of primary school children reported eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. The study’s authors said of the findings that there was a clear association between mental wellbeing and the amounts of fruit and vegetables consumed by the children surveyed.

In addition to fruit and vegetables, the survey found that a number of school children skipped breakfast or lunch. Not only did this appear to have an impact on the children’s mental wellbeing but it is likely to have a significant effect on their physical health also.

While the research is thought-provoking, it is important to take into account the limitations of the results given the research’s reliability on reported results and the narrow geographic location of those surveyed.

How high fat dairy could support heart health

Fat has been publicised by the media across the world as unhealthy and bad for our bodies but a recent study, reported by Healthline, has shone a positive light on high fat dairy and suggested some reasons why we might want to make the switch from skimmed to full fat.

The study, which analysed blood samples from over 4,000 participants, found that those with the highest levels of the fatty acid biomarker 15:0 (pentadecanoic acid), which is associated with higher fat dairy, had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease and better outcomes for heart health.

While the hypothesis is interesting, and a number of other studies such as this article from the British Heart Foundation have suggested the potential benefits to heart health, it is important to note the limitations of the study whereby other changes in cardiovascular risk factors weren’t taken into account. What is important to note is that the study certainly doesn’t suggest increasing the amount of dairy consumed, as a build up of saturated fat can be harmful. However, switching some dairy elements, such as the milk in your morning coffee, to full fat could have heart health benefits, although further research is needed to cement these findings.

B12 for brain health

It is already known that vitamin B12 contributes to normal psychological function, however, recent research has gone beyond this to suggest the essential vitamin could have a significant role in supporting brain health.

A team of researchers from the University of Delaware have investigated the role of vitamin B12 and the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, as reported in this Science Daily article. The surprise discovery came when one of the researcher’s students noticed the difference in mobility between two petri dishes of worms expressed with amyloid beta, the toxic protein implicated in Alzheimer’s Disease. In the dish where the worms were still mobile, it was noted that they had higher levels of vitamin B12 than their immobile counterparts due to being fed a different strain of E. coli that had a higher level of the vitamin.

Speaking of the research, Professor Jessica Tanis said, “When we gave vitamin B12 to the worms that were vitamin B12 deficient, paralysis occurred much more slowly, which immediately told us that B12 was beneficial. The worms with B12 also had higher energy levels and lower oxidative stress in their cells."

While it is important to note that the effects were only seen in vitamin B12 deficient subjects and the vitamin didn’t reduce the toxic levels of amyloid beta, the findings are promising for the future of brain health and Alzheimer’s Disease research.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is the Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.