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Selenium: What It Does and Where To Find It

Selenium Protects a Specific Type of Interneurons in The Brain

Exactly 200 years ago, the Swedish scientist Jöns Jacob Berzelius discovered the trace element selenium, which he named after the goddess of the moon, Selene. Besides its industrial applications (chemical industry, production of semiconductors and toners), selenium is an essential trace element and indispensable for humans, many animals and some bacteria. A team led by Dr. Marcus Conrad, research group leader at the Institute of Developmental Genetics (IDG) at Helmholtz Zentrum München, showed for the first time why selenium is a limiting factor for mammals.

Scientific ‘by-catch’ solves decades-old mystery

The scientists have been investigating for years the processes of a novel type of cell death, known as ferroptosis. In this context, the enzyme GPX4, which normally contains selenium in the form of the amino acid selenocysteine, plays an important role.

In order to better understand the role of GPX4 in this death process, we established and studied mouse models in which the enzyme was modified,” said study leader Conrad. “In one of these models, we observed that mice with a replacement of selenium to sulfur in GPX4 did not survive for longer than three weeks due to neurological complications.”

In their search for the underlying reasons, the researchers identified a distinct subpopulation of specialized neurons in the brain, which were absent when selenium-containing GPX4 was lacking. “In further studies, we were able to show that these neurons were lost during postnatal development, when sulfur- instead of selenium-containing GPX4 was present,” stated first author of the study, Irina Ingold.

Furthermore, the scientists were able to show that ferroptosis is triggered by oxidative stress, which is known to occur for instance during high metabolic activity of cells and high neuronal activity. “Our study demonstrates for the first time that selenium is an essential factor for the postnatal development of a specific type of interneurons,” said Dr. José Pedro Friedmann Angeli, a scientist at the IDG, describing the results. “Selenium-containing GPX4 protects these specialized neurons from oxidative stress and from ferroptotic cell death.”

Thus, the study explains why certain selenoenzymes are essential in some organisms, including mammals, whereas they are dispensable in other organisms, such as fungi and higher plants. In future investigations, study leader Marcus Conrad and his team aim to investigate how ferroptosis is triggered in cells. As a long-term goal, he wants to elucidate the role of ferroptosis in various disease conditions in order to be able to alleviate diseases, such as cancer or neurodegeneration, which are currently difficult to tackle.

Journal Reference:

Irina Ingold, Carsten Berndt, Sabine Schmitt, Sebastian Doll, Gereon Poschmann, Katalin Buday, Antonella Roveri, Xiaoxiao Peng, Florencio Porto Freitas, Tobias Seibt, Lisa Mehr, Michaela Aichler, Axel Walch, Daniel Lamp, Martin Jastroch, Sayuri Miyamoto, Wolfgang Wurst, Fulvio Ursini, Elias S.J. Arnér, Noelia Fradejas-Villar, Ulrich Schweizer, Hans Zischka, José Pedro Friedmann Angeli, Marcus Conrad. Selenium Utilization by GPX4 Is Required to Prevent Hydroperoxide-Induced Ferroptosis. Cell, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.11.048

Story Source:
Materials provided by Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health.
Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
December 29, 2017
www.sciencedaily.com

10 Foods Rich in Selenium

Selenium Function

This important nutrient is vital to immune system function. Selenium works in conjunction with vitamin E, vitamin C, glutathione and vitamin B3 as an antioxidant to prevent free radical damage in the body. It’s thought to help prevent cancer by affecting oxidative stress, inflammation and DNA repair. Selenium has been found to be important to male fertility; increasing selenium levels leads to improved sperm motility. There is preliminary research that suggests that selenium supplementation may also help with asthma symptoms, but more studies are needed.

Selenium Deficiencies

Deficiencies of selenium can occur in areas where soil content of this mineral is low. Diets high in refined foods may also lead to deficiency, as selenium can be destroyed by food processing. Taking anti-inflammatory drugs may reduce the body’s supply of selenium.

Low selenium levels can contribute to autoimmune problems, such as psoriasis and thyroid disease. Low levels have also been tied to stomach, throat and prostate cancers, although more research is needed to determine if this is a cause or a result of the disease. Some studies suggest that selenium deficiency is linked to mood disorders. There’s indication that deficiencies in selenium may contribute to the progression of viral infections.

10 Selenium Food Sources

The selenium content in foods depends on the concentration of selenium in the soil where the crops were grown. The following foods are generally considered good sources of selenium:

  • Brazil Nuts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Fish (tuna, halibut, sardines, flounder, salmon)
  • Shellfish (oysters, mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops)
  • Meat (Beef, liver, lamb, pork)
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey)
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms (button, crimini, shiitake)
  • Grains (wheat germ, barley, brown rice, oats)
  • Onions

Recommended Daily Allowance

  • Children (under 3): 20 mcg
  • Children (4-8): 30 mcg
  • Children (9-13): 40 mcg
  • Adolescents (14-18): 55 mcg
  • Adults 19 and older: 55 mcg
  • Pregnant women: 60 mcg
  • Lactating women: 70 mcg

Toxicity

Exceeding 400 mcg per day can lead to selenium toxicity. Side effects may include hair loss, white spots on fingernails, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and nerve damage. There’s some evidence that high selenium levels may increase the risk of squamous cell skin cancer. Another well controlled study found a correlation between higher levels of selenium and an increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes.

Because of the possibility of toxicity, selenium supplements are controversial. The safest way to ensure a sufficient level of selenium in the diet is by eating a variety of selenium rich foods, like those listed above. Brazil nuts can be very high in selenium and should only be eaten occasionally. One Brazil nut can supply a whole day’s requirement of selenium, although this can vary depending on soil conditions. A multivitamin that contains some selenium is safe for most people to take and can help to fill the gap in a diet that is lacking.

source: www.fitday.com
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How To Choose Between Free-Range, Free-Run, Organic And Conventional Eggs

Eggs can come with a lot of labels these days — free-range, organic, cage-free. How is a consumer to know which ones are the best choice?

Here’s the breakdown of what all those labels on your eggs mean.

1. Conventional eggs: These eggs often don’t have their harvesting practices labelled, and are usually the least expensive. In conventional systems, four hens are typically housed in each two-square-foot battery cage, in barns containing thousands of birds. This makes them prone to injury and infection, so they receive antibiotics daily, as well as hormones to increase egg production. Their feed is unregulated, so they’re often fed leftover animal by-products mixed with grain. Battery cages are banned in the EU and are often the subject of animal-rights debates.

2. Free-run eggs: Free-run hens are not confined to life in a cage, but are allowed to roam the floor of the barn. They are still densely packed into these barns with no required outdoor access. Free-run hens eat the same feed as conventionally raised hens, and are given antibiotics and hormones.



3. Free-range eggs: Free-range hens must have access to the outdoors for the majority of the year, with a roost area for resting. Their feed can’t contain antibiotics or hormones, and the roosts must have at least two square feet per hen. The government does not regulate free-range egg farms, so you must trust the farmers. Some farmers call these eggs “antibiotic-free” or “naturally-raised.”

4. Pastured eggs: Pastured hens are kept in cages with at least two square feet per hen. The structure containing the hens is moved to different areas of the grass daily so the hens can forage for at least 20 percent of their food. They are also not allowed to be fed antibiotics or hormones in their supplemental feed.

5. Organic eggs: Hens must be raised from birth on organic feed that contains no hormones, pesticides or genetically modified organisms. They must have outdoor access year-round; when they are kept inside, they must be fed organic sprouted grains. They must also be allocated at least two square feet of floor space per bird.

 
by Julie Daniluk          Nov 1, 2012 


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Five Foods That May Increase Your IQ

A healthy diet as you’re growing up may help you have a higher IQ, while a diet high in processed foods, fat and sugar may result in a lower IQ, according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health in February 2011. Many of the same foods typically recommended for a healthy diet may also be good for your IQ.

Fish and Omega-3 Sources

Omega-3 fats, found in many types of fish and seafood, walnuts and flaxseeds, are important for infant brain development. An article published on the Association for Psychological Science website notes that children given omega-3 fats have higher IQs than those who don’t consume much of these essential polyunsaturated fats. These healthy fats may also help protect against dementia as you get older. Oysters are also a good seafood choice, because they’re rich in zinc. Zinc deficiency may adversely affect brain development, according to a review article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in 2013.

Children and pregnant women are particularly sensitive to contaminants in fish, so choose those that are high in omega-3 fats but low in contaminants, such as wild salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, mussels and rainbow trout for the recommended two servings per week of seafood to maximize benefits while minimizing risks.

Fruits and Vegetables

Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as leafy greens and orange and red fruits and vegetables, may help protect your brain function and your memory as you age because of the beta-carotene and vitamin C they contain.

A diet rich in herbs, legumes, raw fruits and vegetables and cheese resulted in a higher IQ in children than a diet that included higher amounts of sweet and salty snacks, according to a study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology in July 2012.

Another study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in 2009, came to a similar conclusion, showing that children who ate higher amounts of fruits, vegetables and home-prepared foods had higher IQs.

Iron-Rich Foods

Iron-deficiency anemia may impair your attention span, IQ and ability to concentrate, so eat plenty of iron-rich foods. Increasing iron intake only appears to help IQ when children are deficient in iron, however, according to the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience article. Iron-rich foods include lean meats, oysters, beans, tofu, spinach, sardines and fortified breakfast cereals.

Other Protein-Rich Foods

Diets higher in protein and lower in fat may help improve your concentration because of the dopamine your body releases with protein consumption. Soy protein may be particularly helpful, since it also contains lecithin, which may improve memory and brain function. Lowfat dairy products, lean meats and poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes are all nutritious sources of protein.

Get Plenty of B Vitamins and Choline

Foods containing folate, vitamin B-12 and choline may also help keep your brain healthy, limiting your risk for dementia, depression and neurological disorders. They are also important for cognitive development, so if children don’t get enough of these vitamins they may have a lower IQ. Folate is available in fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, beef liver, rice, asparagus, black-eyed peas, Brussels sprouts and avocado, and most animal-based foods contain vitamin B-12. Good sources of choline include beef, eggs, scallops, salmon, chicken breast, cod, shrimp, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

by JESSICA BRUSO       Jun 17, 2015


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Are Eggs Healthy?

In some ways, eggs are very good for you.

First of all, they are a nutrient-dense food. They contain high-quality protein, meaning eggs offer all nine essential amino acids that can’t be made by humans and therefore must come from our diets. Protein in eggs can help build and preserve muscle as well as boost satiety, both of which are important for weight control.

Eggs are also one of the few food sources of vitamin D and a source of the nutrient choline, which may help protect against birth defects in infants. They contain vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin (B2) and the antioxidant selenium, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, which help keep our eyes healthy.

Most of an egg’s calories, vitamins and minerals are found in the yolk.

But what about the cholesterol in eggs? It’s true that eggs are high in dietary cholesterol, which is also found in the yolk, but they’re low in saturated fat, which is the bigger culprit when it comes to raising blood cholesterol levels. Because of this, eggs get the green light according to the government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

In fact, one recent meta-analysis found that higher consumption of eggs (up to one egg per day) is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke. And a 2016 Finnish study involving more than 1,000 men concluded that egg or cholesterol intakes are not associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease, even in those who are genetically predisposed to experience a stronger effect of dietary cholesterol on blood cholesterol.

What is more likely to affect your health is how eggs are prepared, as well as which other foods you combine with them. One large poached egg has 71 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat, and an omelet made with spinach and one yolk is also a lean choice. But a serving of eggs Benedict with bacon and Hollandaise sauce has about 800 calories and 26 grams of saturated fat.

So feel free to enjoy eggs, but watch how you eat them. And balance eggs with other healthy fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

By Lisa Drayer, CNN     Fri April 14, 2017
 
Lisa Drayer is a nutritionist, author and health journalist.
 
source: www.cnn.com


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Selenium: What It Does and Where To Find It

Selenium Protects a Specific Type of Interneurons in The Brain

Exactly 200 years ago, the Swedish scientist Jöns Jacob Berzelius discovered the trace element selenium, which he named after the goddess of the moon, Selene. Besides its industrial applications (chemical industry, production of semiconductors and toners), selenium is an essential trace element and indispensable for humans, many animals and some bacteria. A team led by Dr. Marcus Conrad, research group leader at the Institute of Developmental Genetics (IDG) at Helmholtz Zentrum München, showed for the first time why selenium is a limiting factor for mammals.

Scientific ‘by-catch’ solves decades-old mystery

The scientists have been investigating for years the processes of a novel type of cell death, known as ferroptosis. In this context, the enzyme GPX4, which normally contains selenium in the form of the amino acid selenocysteine, plays an important role.

In order to better understand the role of GPX4 in this death process, we established and studied mouse models in which the enzyme was modified,” said study leader Conrad. “In one of these models, we observed that mice with a replacement of selenium to sulfur in GPX4 did not survive for longer than three weeks due to neurological complications.”

In their search for the underlying reasons, the researchers identified a distinct subpopulation of specialized neurons in the brain, which were absent when selenium-containing GPX4 was lacking. “In further studies, we were able to show that these neurons were lost during postnatal development, when sulfur- instead of selenium-containing GPX4 was present,” stated first author of the study, Irina Ingold.

Furthermore, the scientists were able to show that ferroptosis is triggered by oxidative stress, which is known to occur for instance during high metabolic activity of cells and high neuronal activity. “Our study demonstrates for the first time that selenium is an essential factor for the postnatal development of a specific type of interneurons,” said Dr. José Pedro Friedmann Angeli, a scientist at the IDG, describing the results. “Selenium-containing GPX4 protects these specialized neurons from oxidative stress and from ferroptotic cell death.”

Thus, the study explains why certain selenoenzymes are essential in some organisms, including mammals, whereas they are dispensable in other organisms, such as fungi and higher plants. In future investigations, study leader Marcus Conrad and his team aim to investigate how ferroptosis is triggered in cells. As a long-term goal, he wants to elucidate the role of ferroptosis in various disease conditions in order to be able to alleviate diseases, such as cancer or neurodegeneration, which are currently difficult to tackle.

Journal Reference:

Irina Ingold, Carsten Berndt, Sabine Schmitt, Sebastian Doll, Gereon Poschmann, Katalin Buday, Antonella Roveri, Xiaoxiao Peng, Florencio Porto Freitas, Tobias Seibt, Lisa Mehr, Michaela Aichler, Axel Walch, Daniel Lamp, Martin Jastroch, Sayuri Miyamoto, Wolfgang Wurst, Fulvio Ursini, Elias S.J. Arnér, Noelia Fradejas-Villar, Ulrich Schweizer, Hans Zischka, José Pedro Friedmann Angeli, Marcus Conrad. Selenium Utilization by GPX4 Is Required to Prevent Hydroperoxide-Induced Ferroptosis. Cell, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.11.048

Story Source:
Materials provided by Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health. 
Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
 
December 29, 2017

10 Foods Rich in Selenium

Selenium Function

This important nutrient is vital to immune system function. Selenium works in conjunction with vitamin E, vitamin C, glutathione and vitamin B3 as an antioxidant to prevent free radical damage in the body. It’s thought to help prevent cancer by affecting oxidative stress, inflammation and DNA repair. Selenium has been found to be important to male fertility; increasing selenium levels leads to improved sperm motility. There is preliminary research that suggests that selenium supplementation may also help with asthma symptoms, but more studies are needed.

Selenium Deficiencies

Deficiencies of selenium can occur in areas where soil content of this mineral is low. Diets high in refined foods may also lead to deficiency, as selenium can be destroyed by food processing. Taking anti-inflammatory drugs may reduce the body’s supply of selenium.

Low selenium levels can contribute to autoimmune problems, such as psoriasis and thyroid disease. Low levels have also been tied to stomach, throat and prostate cancers, although more research is needed to determine if this is a cause or a result of the disease. Some studies suggest that selenium deficiency is linked to mood disorders. There’s indication that deficiencies in selenium may contribute to the progression of viral infections.

10 Selenium Food Sources

The selenium content in foods depends on the concentration of selenium in the soil where the crops were grown. The following foods are generally considered good sources of selenium:

  • Brazil Nuts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Fish (tuna, halibut, sardines, flounder, salmon)
  • Shellfish (oysters, mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops)
  • Meat (Beef, liver, lamb, pork)
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey)
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms (button, crimini, shiitake)
  • Grains (wheat germ, barley, brown rice, oats)
  • Onions

 

Recommended Daily Allowance

  • Children (under 3): 20 mcg
  • Children (4-8): 30 mcg
  • Children (9-13): 40 mcg
  • Adolescents (14-18): 55 mcg
  • Adults 19 and older: 55 mcg
  • Pregnant women: 60 mcg
  • Lactating women: 70 mcg

 

Toxicity

Exceeding 400 mcg per day can lead to selenium toxicity. Side effects may include hair loss, white spots on fingernails, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and nerve damage. There’s some evidence that high selenium levels may increase the risk of squamous cell skin cancer. Another well controlled study found a correlation between higher levels of selenium and an increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes.

Because of the possibility of toxicity, selenium supplements are controversial. The safest way to ensure a sufficient level of selenium in the diet is by eating a variety of selenium rich foods, like those listed above. Brazil nuts can be very high in selenium and should only be eaten occasionally. One Brazil nut can supply a whole day’s requirement of selenium, although this can vary depending on soil conditions. A multivitamin that contains some selenium is safe for most people to take and can help to fill the gap in a diet that is lacking.


2 Comments

8 Ways Eating Better Can Improve Your Mental Health

You probably already know that fruits and veggies can make you healthier, but did you know they could also make you happier?

I walked into my apartment to find my roommate sitting on the couch with her head in her hands. She looked as if she had reached a breaking point. “Another tough day at work?” I asked her.

“Not really.” She sighed as she reached for what looked like a day-old carton of fast food fries.

I bit my tongue from reminding her (again) that what you eat actually plays an important role in how you feel mentally. In fact, mental illnesses from depression to schizophrenia have been linked to diet. And if you’re reading this, then I suspect you’re actually ready to hear it—and I’m here for you!

Although French fries and ice cream often make it on the list of grub to dig into when we’re down, true comfort food comes from a healthier crowd. Don’t just take my word for it. Spanish researchers who followed 15,000 young adults over the course of nine years found that those who ate more nuts, fruit, vegetables, and fish had a 30 percent lower incidence of depression than those who gorged on sweets or processed foods. That’s not all. The UK-based Mental Health Foundation reports that fewer than half of patients who suffer from mental health problems eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Contrarily, nearly two-thirds of those free from daily mental health problems eat fresh produce regularly.

Ensuring your diet is full of adequate amounts of healthy nutrients can enhance your mental clarity, provide a more balanced mood, and protect your mind from early mental decline. Discover all the ways that eating better can help improve your mental health—and when you’re finally convinced it’s time to make the change, add these 25 Best Foods for a Toned Body on your grocery list to get you started!

1) YOU’LL SAVE MONEY

Think about all that cash you blow on soda, grabbing takeout at restaurants, picking out a snack every couple of hours, and ordering dessert after every meal. It’s not just food you’ll save money on when you start to eat better. Those who clock in at a healthy weight spend an astounding 42 percent less cash on medical bills and health expenses than their overweight peers, according to a Health Affairs report. Sounds pretty good so far, but get this: you’ll not only be less stressed financially, but a study published in The Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences says that financial strain is a strong risk factor for and predictor of worsening mental health. Clear mind, full wallet, can’t lose.

2) FUELING UP PROPERLY MEANS YOU WON’T BE HANGRY AS MUCH

Whether you’re constantly muttering under your breath about coworkers’ minute errors or snapping at drivers during rush hour, you go about life with a short fuse. Rather than looking to poor anger management or mood disorders, look to your rumbling stomach. You could actually be hangry! One of the reasons why you’re always hungry, and thus, always hangry, is perhaps because of an inefficient diet that subsists on empty carbs. This food burns up in your body quickly, which causes your body to crave substance more quickly.

When you deprive yourself of food while your body screams at you to eat, your body goes into a state of distress. The result is low dopamine levels—AKA less control over your emotions and commonly experiencing irritability, anxiety, mental confusion, and slowness in thought. If you choose to fuel up with slow-burning sources of energy like complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats, you’ll start to see your anger subside in no time.

3) COMBATING NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES CAN IMPROVE YOUR MOOD

Studies show that a number of nutrients are associated with brain health, and deficiencies of these nutrients have countlessly been linked to depression. It should be no surprise that many of these micronutrients are abundant in “healthy” foods and M.I.A. in junk foods. Some of which include omega-3s (salmon, flax and chia seeds, walnuts), folate (asparagus, chickpeas, lentils), vitamin B12 (tuna, shrimp, milk), choline (egg yolks, broccoli, brussels sprouts), magnesium (spinach, yogurt, black beans), vitamin D (fatty fish, eggs). Always check with your doctor before going off any anti-depressants, but you may want to get blood work done to see if the reason your mood has tanked is because you’re experiencing some nutritional deficiencies.

Carrots

4) EATING ANTIOXIDANTS CAN HELP YOU FEEL MORE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE FUTURE

Whether you’re a recent college grad or just attended your last child’s college graduation, the future can certainly seem daunting at times—and that can cause some serious anxiety. That’s even more so the case if you’re not eating enough carrots. Why? A study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that individuals with higher levels of carotenoids (a type of antioxidant) tended to be more optimistic about the future, an indicator of positive health. Unless you’re always ordering sweet potato fries when you eat out, you’re likely missing out on these beneficial antioxidants. On the other hand, a healthy diet easily incorporates many of its top sources: carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and kale.

5) CHEMICALS IN FAST FOOD BLOCK MOOD-BOOSTING NUTRIENT ABSORPTION

It might be hard to pronounce, but phthalates (thāl-ates) are a group of endocrine-disrupting chemical toxins you need to know about. Just like BPA, phthalates are used in plastic food and beverage wrappers notorious in fast food places—but those toxins aren’t staying just on the wrappers. A study recently made headlines that connected people who ate fast food with dose-dependent higher levels of phthalate metabolites than infrequent eaters. And that’s bad news for all-day-breakfast lovers since a separate study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that exposure to BPA and phthalates may reduce adults’ vitamin D levels—a vitamin whose low levels in the blood have been connected to mental decline in older adults and chronic migraines in young people. Bottom line: lay off the fast food and not only will the scale tip in your favor, but you may also have more mental clarity!

6) YOU’LL KICK THE JUNKY FOODS THAT EXACERBATE STRESS

Believe it or not, but the foods that worsen stress are also the ones that are connected to weight gain. Worst of all, they’re often our go-to snacks when we’re feeling particularly anxious (think: chips and ice cream), which just throws our bodies into an endless cycle of stress. On the other hand, there are numerous options that have been scientifically proven to alter both your brain chemistry and hormones to help your body deal with stress more easily. And you guessed it: they’re all good-for-you foods.

7) YOU MAY BOOST THE EFFECTIVENESS OF YOUR MEDICATION

On antidepressants? A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that supplementing your diet with certain nutrients found in healthy foods—omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and vitamin D—can be effective in boosting the positive effects of antidepressant medication.

8) YOU’LL SLEEP BETTER

You may have never thought about how—or if—your diet controls how easily you fall asleep and how well rested you are upon waking. When you eat a poor diet centered on foods that digest quickly and leave you hungry often, you can disrupt your sleep cycle by making yourself hungry in the middle of the night. When you improve your diet and lose weight, you’ll likely be able to put sleeping problems such as sleep apnea to bed. In doing so, you’ll improve your mental health in the meantime.

Countless studies have found that sleeping problems often precede mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders and depression. In a widespread study of 1,000 adults, researchers found that those who reported a history of insomnia during an interview were four times as likely to develop major depression by the time of a second interview three years later.

By Olivia Tarantino


1 Comment

Nutritional Strategies to Ease Anxiety

According the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. That’s 40 million adults—18% of the population—who struggle with anxiety. Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand, with about half of those with depression also experiencing anxiety.

Specific therapies and medications can help relieve the burden of anxiety, yet only about a third of people suffering from this condition seek treatment. In my practice, part of what I discuss when explaining treatment options is the important role of diet in helping to manage anxiety.

In addition to healthy guidelines such as eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water to stay hydrated, and limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine, there are many other dietary considerations that can help relieve anxiety. For example, complex carbohydrates are metabolized more slowly and therefore help maintain a more even blood sugar level, which creates a calmer feeling.

A diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits is a healthier option than eating a lot of simple carbohydrates found in processed foods. When you eat is also important. Don’t skip meals. Doing so may result in drops in blood sugar that cause you to feel jittery, which may worsen underlying anxiety.

The gut-brain axis is also very important, since a large percentage (about 95%) of serotonin receptors are found in the lining of the gut. Research is examining the potential of probiotics for treating both anxiety and depression.

Foods that can help quell anxiety

You might be surprised to learn that specific foods have been shown to reduce anxiety.

  • In mice, diets low in magnesium were found to increase anxiety-related behaviors. Foods naturally rich in magnesium may therefore help a person to feel calmer. Examples include leafy greens such as spinach and Swiss chard. Other sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Foods rich in zinc such as oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks have been linked to lowered anxiety.
  • Other foods, including fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acid. A study completed on medical students in 2011 was one of the first to show that omega-3s may help reduce anxiety. (This study used supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids). Prior to the study, omega-3 fatty acids had been linked to improving depression only.
  • A recent study in the journal Psychiatry Research suggested a link between probiotic foods and a lowering of social anxiety. Eating probiotic-rich foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, and kefir was linked with fewer symptoms.
  • Asparagus, known widely to be a healthy vegetable. Based on research, the Chinese government approved the use of an asparagus extract as a natural functional food and beverage ingredient due to its anti-anxiety properties.
  • Foods rich in B vitamins such as avocado and almonds

These “feel good” foods spur the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. They are a safe and easy first step in managing anxiety.

Walnuts

Are antioxidants anti-anxiety?

Anxiety is thought to be correlated with a lowered total antioxidant state. It stands to reason, therefore, that enhancing your diet with foods rich in antioxidants may help ease the symptoms of anxiety disorders. A 2010 study reviewed the antioxidant content of 3,100 foods, spices, herbs, beverages, and supplements. Foods designated as high in antioxidants by the USDA include:

  • Beans: Dried small red, Pinto, black, red kidney
  • Fruits: Apples (Gala, Granny Smith, Red Delicious), prunes, sweet cherries, plums, black plums
  • Berries: Blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries
  • Nuts: Walnuts, pecans
  • Vegetables: Artichokes, kale, spinach, beets, broccoli
  • Spices with both antioxidant and anti-anxiety properties include turmeric (containing the active ingredient curcumin) and ginger.

Achieving better mental health through diet

Be sure to talk to your doctor if your anxiety symptoms are severe or last more than two weeks. But even if your doctor recommends medication or therapy for anxiety, it is still worth asking whether you might also have some success by adjusting your diet. While nutritional psychiatry is not a substitute for other treatments, the relationship between food, mood, and anxiety is garnering more and more attention. There is a growing body of evidence, and more research is needed to fully understand the role of nutritional psychiatry, or as I prefer to call it, Psycho-Nutrition.

Uma Naidoo, MD, Contributor       APRIL 13, 2016, 9:30 AM