From stress to snoring, this week’s Nutrition News covers the latest in nutritional research and how what we eat affects every facet of our lives.

Find out more by reading the full article here.

Study reveals impact of ashwagandha on stress

Ashwagandha has been explored for its potential in supporting the body’s response to stress. This in-depth review, reported in the article “Combatting stress: Efficacy and safety of Rhodiola rosea and Ashwagandha reviewed” delves into the possibilities of plant adaptogens. The unique ability of adaptogens lies in enhancing the non-specific resistance of the organism against an array of stressors—be they physical, chemical, or biological.

Historically, numerous plants boasting complex phytochemical profiles have been recognised as adaptogens. This review, however, takes a panoramic view, tracing the evolution of the adaptogenic concept from a historical perspective and presenting a rational classification of adaptogenic plants. While not exhaustive, the classification offers insights into the diverse world of botanical adaptogens.

Focusing on two key players in the adaptogenic arena —golden root (Rhodiola rosea) and ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), both substances renowned for their stress support — the review highlights their ethnomedicinal properties, intricate phytochemical profiles, and pharmacological activities. It provides a glimpse into the mechanisms behind their multifaceted biological actions, drawing on evidence from relevant clinical trials.

In addition to celebrating the therapeutic benefits of these adaptogens, the review addresses contemporary concerns surrounding safety and toxicity. Potential drug interactions, contraindications, and warnings in specific physiological states or health conditions are thoughtfully detailed, ensuring informed usage. It is for these reasons that it is also recommended to consult a healthcare practitioner before introducing any botanical to your diet.

Could a plant-based diet stop snoring?

New research, reported in the article “Eating a Plant-Based Diet May Help Reduce Snoring” has unveiled a potential remedy for the disruptive sound of snores, which plagues many households – a balanced, plant-based diet. The study indicates that individuals adhering to a plant-centric diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts may experience a notable reduction in obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and, consequently, snoring.

The research observed that those with diets abundant in plant-based foods demonstrated a 19% lower likelihood of experiencing OSA compared to their counterparts with lower plant-based food consumption. Notably, individuals following predominantly vegetarian diets also exhibited a lower risk. However, the study emphasises that the quality of the plant-based diet is crucial.

On the flip side, individuals consuming an unhealthy plant-based diet, characterised by refined carbohydrates, sugary drinks, and high-sugar and high-salt foods, faced a 22% higher risk of OSA. This underscores the importance of not just adopting a plant-based diet but ensuring its nutritional integrity.

The potential link between a plant-based diet and reduced snoring lies in its impact on inflammation. Nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory compounds found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts can mitigate inflammation, neutralise free radicals, and alleviate oxidative stress in the body. Conversely, an unhealthy plant-based diet, particularly one high in sugars and salts, can contribute to inflammation in the throat, exacerbating snoring and breathing difficulties.

Notably, a plant-based diet addresses risk factors such inflammation and obesity, associated with airway obstruction during sleep. The positive influence of such diets on reducing factors contributing to sleep apnoea makes them a potential ally in sleep support and overall well-being.

While the study highlights the potential benefits of a plant-based diet, it stops short of asserting its superiority over a healthy meat-based diet regarding obstructive sleep apnoea. More research is warranted in this area. Nevertheless, making informed dietary choices and embracing a healthful lifestyle may not only lead to quieter nights but also contribute to enhanced overall health and well-being.

Vitamin B1 linked with cognitive support in over 60s

Delving into the intricate connection between nutrition and cognitive health, a recent cross-sectional observational study, reported in the article “Vitamin B1 and brain power: Increased dietary intake linked with better cognition in over 60s - cross-sectional study”, aimed to unravel the relationship between vitamin B1 intake and cognitive function in older adults.

The study, drawing on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) spanning 2011–2014, encompassed a robust cohort of 2422 participants. Vitamin B1 intake was meticulously gauged by averaging two 24-hour dietary recalls, providing a comprehensive dietary profile and cognitive function was assessed through three distinct tests. The Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) gauged processing speed, the Animal Fluency Test (AFT) delved into executive function, and a Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer's disease (CERAD) subtest evaluated memory. To assess overall cognitive performance, test-specific and global cognition z scores were also created.

The findings illustrated a noteworthy association between vitamin B1 intake and cognitive performance among the sampled US adults. Utilising multivariate linear regression models, the study unravelled the intricate interplay between vitamin B1 levels and cognitive function.

As we navigate the complexities of an ageing population, understanding the potential impact of nutritional factors on cognitive health becomes paramount. While this cross-sectional study lays a promising foundation, there is a need for further exploration. There is a call for larger prospective studies, seeking to unveil the exact causality of the observed relationship between vitamin B1 intake and cognitive function in older adults. In the quest to unlock the mysteries of cognitive ageing, this research stands as a promising start, prompting a deeper dive into the realms of nutrition and cognitive vitality.

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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.