January is not known as the happiest month, with cold, dark evenings often affecting our mood. This week’s Nutrition News looks at some of the most recent nutritional studies, including some that assess the link between serotonin deficiency and mood as well as how we can support eye health into old age.

Find out more in this week’s Nutrition News here.

Could dried goji berries help prevent age related vision loss

Many people take declining vision as a natural part of the ageing process and deteriorating eye health, however, this can extend past needing glasses for reading to the development of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.

One recent study, as reported by Science Daily has suggested that goji berries could play a part in delaying or reducing the risk of developing AMD. Goji berries are a great source of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients commonly found in eye health supplements.

Lead author of the study, Xiang Li, described the two nutrients as “like sunscreen for your eyes” as they filter out harmful blue light and provide antioxidant protection, protecting the eyes from the effects of ageing.

The study involved 13 healthy participants between the ages of 45 and 65. Each participant consumed a handful of goji berries five times a week for 90 days and saw an increase in density of the protective pigments, lutein and zeaxanthin, in their eyes. While the study size is too small to reach a firm conclusion, it provides interesting information from which to conduct further research into the role of antioxidants and eye health.

How to boost mood and avoid serotonin deficiency

Serotonin is a brain chemical that stabilises mood as well as enhancing focus, and regulating the digestive system and sleep cycle.

A recent article has evaluated this important chemical including what could lead to low serotonin levels and why it is vital for good health. One such reason serotonin may fall low of the optimum levels could be that you are not consuming enough tryptophan through your diet. This amino acid is essential to serotonin production and the body cannot make it on its own so it needs to be obtained through diet in turkey, chicken, bananas, and milk. Besides tryptophan, the body needs 5-Hydroxytryptophan to convert tryptophan into serotonin, this is an amino acid that can be made by the body although some people choose to supplement as they cannot produce enough or consume enough tryptophan.

Other nutrient deficiencies can also interfere with serotonin production, such as vitamin D and probiotics. Another recent article linked vitamin D with a reduced risk of depression, which, considering serotonin is linked to positive mood, it is reasonable to think the link here is between vitamin D and serotonin.

While serotonin is found in many plants, because the chemical cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, the solution to low serotonin levels lies in increasing tryptophan intake, not serotonin.

Study shows connection between vitamin K2 and cardiovascular health

While many people have heard of vitamin K, few people are made aware of the acute difference between vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. The two vitamins are worlds apart in terms of what they do for the body. Whilst both are fat soluble vitamins and share similar chemical structures, vitamin K1 is mostly found in plant based foods and makes up 75-90% of the vitamin K we consume. Vitamin K2, on the other hand, is found in fermented foods and animal products. It is thought that vitamin K1 is poorly absorbed by the body, whereas vitamin K2, which is found in some dietary fats is thought to be better absorbed as a vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin.

This recent article on vitamin K2 notes the important difference between the two and references modern studies that suggest that vitamin K2 could play an important role in heart health.

As vitamin K2 plays a role in regulating calcium, it is thought that this particular vitamin could significantly improve heart health through modulating “systemic calcification and arterial stiffness.” One such study cited in the article suggested that high vitamin k2 levels reduced the risk of atherosclerosis-related heart disease by as much as 34%.

While further research is needed to fully understand the link between vitamin K2 and heart health, the research is promising.

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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.