This week’s Nutrition News covers a range of recent studies and research that looks into the link between mental and physical health. From heart health impacting cognitive ability to how fruit and vegetables could ward off stress.

Read the full article here.

A healthy heart could equate to a healthy mind

There have been studies in the past that have linked risk factors for poor heart health with risk factors for brain and cognitive health conditions but a recent study, as reported by Medical News Today, has gone a step further in unearthing an association between heart health and cognitive ability in healthy individuals.

The study involved data from a biomedical database involving 29,763 participants who were healthier and wealthier than the UK national average and with an average age of 63 years. Using cardiac MRI scan results and fluid intelligence tests to assess heart health and cognitive ability, the study’s authors established healthier heart outcomes, such as larger ventricular cavity volumes, larger left ventricular and right ventricular stroke volumes and high left ventricular mass, with better cognitive performance. Likewise, smaller ventricular volumes and lower left ventricular mass was associated with reduced cognitive function.

While associations between heart and brain health have been established before, this study gave a more robust picture of this link. It also enabled the study’s authors to further theorise the cause of this link between the two. While no definitive answers can be reached currently due to the observational nature of this particular study, it does give a robust base for further research into this link.

How fruit and vegetables could lower stress levels

We all know that fruit and vegetables are important to keep our bodies healthy, but did you also know they could benefit our minds too? This recent Medscape article looks at the link between diets rich in fruit and vegetables and reduced stress levels.

In assessing the dietary intake and perceived stress of over 8,600 Australians over the age of 25 years old, the researchers found that those with the highest fruit and vegetable intake had a 10% lower score on the perceived stress questionnaire than those with the lowest intake.

Speaking of the findings, Simone Radavelli-Bagatini, a doctoral candidate at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia, said, “In addition to the benefits for physical health, diets rich in fruits and vegetables are also likely to have benefits for mental well-being”.

While previous studies have explored the link between fruit and vegetable consumption and the benefits on mental wellbeing in terms of depression, this is the first study of its kind to explore the dietary effect of these food groups on perceived stress. It is thought that the bioactive nutrients and phytochemicals such as vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, the B-group vitamins, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds found in fruit and vegetables may be what plays a part in reducing stress levels.

The health benefits of tyrosine

Tyrosine is an important amino acid that is made from another amino acid; phenylalanine. It is not classed as an essential amino acid as the body can make it but if the body cannot convert phenylalanine into tyrosine, people can become deficient, which may cause low blood pressure and a low body temperature.

There are dietary sources of phenylalanine that could support the body’s production of tyrosine, as is discussed in this Medical News Today article. These include high protein foods such as fish and meat, soy products, eggs and dairy, seeds and beans.

In addition to its affects on blood pressure and body temperature, a lack of tyrosine can also affect mood and cognition as it is responsible for making the neurotransmitters epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine, among others, that offer cognitive support. These neurotransmitters impact concentration, mood and stress management.

While it is important to make sure the body doesn’t become deficient in tyrosine and to be particularly conscious of your active levels if you have a known condition that prevents your body from converting phenylalanine into tyrosine, it is also important to make sure you don’t have too much of this amino acid in the body. It is advised to seek the advice of a healthcare practitioner before supplementing with tyrosine.

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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.