How diet and nutrition can affect mental health and anxiety. Find out in this week’s Nutrition News, which covers the very latest in nutritional research.

Childhood diet affects anxiety levels as adults

According to researchers at the University of California – Riverside, diet and exercise as a child could have a significant impact on anxiety levels at adult age.

The researchers found that early life exercise was associated with less anxious adults and that a western style diet, high in fat and sugar, led to overweight children that then transpired into adults that preferred unhealthy food. While a healthy diet and regular exercise is regarded as the fundamentals of keeping healthy, this study illustrates that good habits in childhood translate into better habits as an adult.

One of the factors measured by the team was leptin, which is produced by fat cells, and helps control body weight by increasing energy expenditure and signalling that less food is required. Exercise early in life increased adult leptin levels as well as fat mass. They also found that the consumption of too much fat and sugar as a child can alter the microbiome and gut health for life, even if the individual opted for a healthier diet later on.

While additional research is needed to cement these results, the findings reported by Science Daily illustrate there is a connection between child exercise levels and diet and overall health as they grow into adulthood.

How diet influences immune function

It is well known that our diet influences the effectiveness of our immune system but it is lesser understood how it influences the immune response. This article by Medical News Today explores all the ways in which the immune system can be affected by diet and what we can do to support it.

The article references numerous studies that show that diet influences the microbiome, gut barrier function, inflammatory processes and white blood cell function, all of which play a part in keeping the immune system healthy. Western style diets high in sugar and saturated fats are shown to induce inflammation and alter immune system function. These types of diets are also more commonly associated with nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin D, zinc, and vitamin C, which all contribute to the function of the immune system.

In addition to a healthy diet, ensuring you lead a life with reduced stress, adequate sleep, and daily physical activity are all ways to support the immune system and lower the risk of contracting diseases.

The probiotic that may reduce stress

A recent study has found that the probiotic lactobacillus plantarum may have a positive effect on the reduction of stress, anxiety, and insomnia.

The Taiwan study looked at the effect of this specific probiotic strain on the gut-brain axis and researchers believe that lactobacillus plantarum causes molecules to be released in the gut that then travel to the brain and possibly cause levels of serotonin and dopamine to rise. The research, which was reported on by NutraIngredients-USA, assessed 36 individuals who were given lactobacillus plantarum for eight weeks and found reduced cortisol levels as well as reported reductions in insomnia severity, anxiety, job stress, negative emotions, and gastrointestinal symptoms.

While the results are promising, particularly in the measurable reduction of cortisol, the researchers stress that further research would be needed to cement the findings as they acknowledge the participants had high-stress occupations and the results may not be so clearly seen in other test subjects.

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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.