Category Archives: Cognitive function

Your brain on junk food …

Was there a word just on the tip of your tongue recently that you couldn’t quite remember? Are you having a difficult time staying focused at the office? Or maybe you’re having trouble remembering events from your not-so-distant past that were once easily accessible to you. Don’t be too quick to pass it off as an age-related issue or a momentary mental “glitch.” It may very well be diet-related!

A new study coming out of the University of New South Wales in Australia has linked a diet high in sugar and fat to restricted cognitive abilities — after just one week! It is thought that the results of this study may improve the current understanding of how obesity and excessive weight gain affect the body.

FoodFacts.com has reported on older studies that have linked obesity with mental health difficulties like depression. But is hasn’t been clear whether or not unhealthy dietary habits actually affect the brain. This new study sought to clarify this by evaluating cognitive changes in rats fed a diet high in both sugar and fat.

For a one week period, the test animals were assigned one of three meal plans — a healthy diet, an unhealthy diet emphasizing cake, chips and cookies, and a healthy diet taken with sugar water. The first and second meal plan groups represented control and treatment groups respectively. The third plan was experimental and attempted to isolate the effect of excessive sugar intake.

It was found that in both the treatment and experimental group, the subjects exhibited cognitive impairments after only one week. These impairments were exhibited as a reduced ability to recognize certain objects. The results suggest that even a temporary diet high in sugar and fat may have serious consequences. Researchers were surprised at the speed with which the cognitive deterioration took place. In addition, preliminary data may suggest that this damage is not reversed when the subjects are switched back to a healthy diet.

In addition, these rats had signs of inflammation in their brain’s hippocampal area — a cerebral center associated with spatial memory. This suggests that the inflammatory responses recorded in obese people may not be limited to fat tissue.
Researchers are hopeful that these results are relevant to people. They noted that while nutrition affects the brain at every age, it is critical as we age and may be significant in preventing cognitive decline.

So the next time you reach for a high fat, high sugar food option, it might be important to remember the results of this study. And if you’re having trouble reaching for that information, well … let’s say that might just be your brain on junk food! It’s time for us all to consider the way our diets affect our brains, as well as the rest of our bodies.

Read more here: http://health.yahoo.net/articles/obesity/one-week-junk-food-could-impair-your-memory

Can water boost brain performance?

The FoodFacts.com community is comprised of nutritionally savvy, food-aware individuals who pride themselves on remaining educated about the foods and beverages they consume. So we know that everyone is aware that the human body is more than 60% water. Blood is about 92% water, the brain and muscles are 75% water and our bones are about 22% water. While a human being can survive for about a month without food, it can only go for about a week or so without water. That’s one really important liquid for humans.

And we know many of the benefits of drinking water (beyond survival). Water can help keep our skin clear, help us to lose and maintain our weight, keeps our bodily fluids balanced so we don’t dehydrate … the list goes on and on. Today we found a new reason to drink more water. New research has revealed that drinking water when we experience thirst may boost our cognitive abilities.

Researchers from the University of East London and the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom analyzed the potential effects of water on cognitive performance and mood among 34 participants. The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, involved participants taking part in a “water” and a “no water” experiment one week apart.

The “water” experiment required the people to complete a number of mental tests after eating a cereal bar and drinking some water. The “no water” test meant the participants consumed just the cereal bar alone. The amount of water drunk by the participants in the “water” test depended on their level of thirst. The study found that reaction times were faster after people drank water, especially if they were thirsty before drinking.

In both experiments, the participants were asked to fast overnight, consuming no food or drink after 9pm before the day of testing. The participants were assessed via three measurements – a thirst scale, a mood scale and with a computer-administered variety of tasks called the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB).
The researchers analyzed particular areas of the participants’ brain, including reaction time, verbal recognition memory, visual memory and learning.

The participants who drank around three cups of water (775 milliliters) just before completing the tests had a 14% increased reaction time compared with those who did not drink any water. More specifically, water consumption appeared to have a corrective effect on the response times for thirsty individuals, bringing their speed of responding up to the level of non-thirsty individuals

Researchers noted that the study shows that water can be helpful for cognitive performance … and that sometimes it can be helpful to be thirsty. They also acknowledge that further study is needed to determine the reasons for the effects observed.

FoodFacts.com thinks this is a fascinating new reason to make sure we drink adequate amounts of water daily. We also think that the best reason to drink water is the simplest of all. Nothing can quench thirst like water. That’s probably because it’s so important for keeping our bodies functioning. Good hydration habits are key to our overall health and well-being.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263648.php

Lower your risk of memory loss, commit to a healthy lifestyle

FoodFacts.com’s mission is to educate consumers about what’s really in the food products available on our grocery shelves. We take great care to inform our visitors about ingredients that may actually be harmful to our health and the real benefits of eating a healthful diet and committing to a healthy lifestyle.

Today we read about a new study out of UCLA that shows a clear and valuable benefit to adapting a healthy lifestyle and sticking with it. It appears that folks with healthy habits are at a reduced risk for memory loss than those whose habits aren’t as healthful.

UCLA researchers teamed up with the Gallup organization for a national poll of over 18,000 people. The survey asked participants questions about their memory as well as their lifestyle.  The researchers then reviewed the results to see if there was any link between healthy behaviors and memory throughout adult life.

Participants were asked five very simple questions:

• Do you smoke?
• Did you eat healthy all day yesterday?
• In the last seven days, on how many days did you have five or more servings of vegetables and fruits?
• In the last seven days, on how many days did you exercise for 30 minutes or more?
• Do you have any problems with your memory?

Of course, the memory question relied on the participant’s own perception of his or her cognitive abilities. The survey showed that healthy eating, not smoking and regular exercise were linked to better memory among the participants.

Those between the ages of 18 and 39 were less likely to report healthy behaviors than those older adults over 60 years of age. Those who reported the healthiest habits were the least likely to report problems with their memory. People who only engaged in one healthy behavior were 21 percent less likely to report memory problems, those who engaged in two were 45 percent less likely, and adults who engaged in more than three positive behaviors were far less likely to report memory problems. Seventy percent of the older adults engaged in at least one healthy behavior compared to only 61 percent of middle-aged adults and 58 percent of younger adults.

It was noted that young adults participating in the survey were the most likely to engage in unhealthy habits. 25% of middle-aged adults participating were smokers compared with only 12 percent of those over the age of 60. Younger adults also reported eating less fruits and vegetables than the older survey participants.

Memory issues were reported from 26 percent of the older adults and 22 percent of the middle-aged adults. The researchers said these figures were expected among adults of these age groups, however, they said they were surprised that 14 percent of young adults reported memory problems too.

Researchers noted that it’s possible that older adults are engaging in healthier behaviors because they are more likely to listen to their doctors’ advice. They also noted that this survey speaks to the need for further research to potentially aid and enhance cognitive function throughout a lifespan.

Fruits. Vegetables. Exercise. No smoking. FoodFacts.com can get on board with these healthy habits at every age. And as we age, we’d all like to envision ourselves as fully functioning, active older adults. Let’s commit to that healthy lifestyle every single day.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/261358.php

Mediterranean Diet linked to memory preservation and cognitive function

FoodFacts.com’s main focus and mission has always been to educate consumers on the relationship between our diets and our health. With so many controversial ingredients present in our food supply, as well as unhealthy amounts of added sugar and sodium levels, consumers need straight answers and unbiased information on developing the dietary habits that will help them live longer, healthier lives.

So just how should we be eating? While there are a plethora of opinions on different dietary habits, the Mediterranean diet and its health benefits always seems to find its way into the news through continuing research. Today we found a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Athens, Greece linking the Mediterranean diet to the preservation of memory and cognitive abilities.

The researchers collected data from the REGARDS study (Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke). This study included data on over 30,000 people over 45 years of age between 2003 and 2007. Participants were followed up on regularly to record health changes. Among these participants, over 14,000 Caucasians and African-Americans who followed the Mediterranean diet were examined. The average age for this sub-group was 64. They were given tests to measure their memory and cognitive abilities over a period of four years. Seventeen percent of them had diabetes.

It was found that among those without diabetes who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely, the risk of memory problems and declining cognitive ability was lower by 19% in comparison to the rest of the population of the subgroup. In addition, the differences in declines among Caucasians and African-Americans was not statistically significant. The presence of diabetes seemed to hinder the effects of the Mediterranean diet as no benefit was realized amongst those participants who had the disease.

The researchers noted that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids are linked to better memory and cognitive functioning. The Mediterranean diet is rich in foods containing omega-3 fatty acids.

Prior studies have pointed out many other health benefits of the Mediterranean diet … some of which linked it to increased mental health, as well as brain health, as it appears to reduce damage to small blood vessels.

The Mediterranean diet incorporates the dietary patterns traditionally found in Southern Italy, Greece and Spain. It includes the consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products, moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of meat and meat products.

FoodFacts.com feels that the Mediterranean diet has shown so many potential benefits that it’s something to be seriously considered. This relatively simple style of eating is a fairly easy transition for most consumers who are already focused on the consumption of fresh, whole foods. Its benefits continue to unfold and we’re sure that this isn’t the last of the good news that we’ll hear regarding its advantages.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/259793.php

Caffeine may have an effect on cognitive performance for kids … and how we all perceive the flavor of foods

FoodFacts.com has found some positive information for the moderate consumption of caffeine during the past year. At the same time, we’ve kept our community up-to-date on its negative effects as well – especially when it comes to energy drinks and our children. Whether it’s coffee, tea, soda or those energy drinks, our kids are consuming more of it. Since 1977, there has been a 70% increase in caffeine consumption for children and adolescents.

There have been many studies that link caffeine to improved cognitive performance for certain tasks. A new study out of the University of Buffalo has recently focused on caffeine’s effects on the cognitive behavior of children and teenagers. The study investigated whether male and female children perform differently on five separate tasks in response to caffeine.

96 children and adolescents participated in the study. Researchers measured developmental and gender differences in the participants who were either given caffeine or a placebo and then participated in memory tests, reaction time tests and color-word tasks. The group consuming caffeine performed better in all of the testing scenarios. They all had an increased number of correct responses in the memory tests. And the females had more correct responses than the males in the reaction time tests and color-word tasks. The results suggest that caffeine can have a different effect in females because of circulating steroid hormones.

In addition to this study regarding the consumption of caffeine in children, researchers also investigated whether pairing a flavored food with caffeine would enhance likeability of the food consumed. Sometimes that muffin or bagel just doesn’t taste the same in the morning without a cup of coffee. There may be a reason why.

Researchers tested whether a caffeinated beverage paired with an unusually flavored yogurt would enhance the perceived flavor of that yogurt when compared with a placebo.
For this test, 68 men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 randomly received a caffeinated beverage or a placebo. They then consumed a low energy density yogurt or a high energy density yogurt. The flavors of yogurt used for this test were not typical flavors and included things like almond, maple, peppermint and cumin.

Participants rated and ranked seven different flavors of yogurt over a four day period. Flavor preferences increased over those four days with the yogurt paired with caffeine consistently ranked higher in flavor than the same yogurts paired with a placebo.

Researchers want to repeat the experiment with fruits and vegetables to determine whether caffeinated beverages could increase the affinity for these important foods, and perhaps encourage increased consumption.

Improved cognitive performance for kids. Better taste perception of unusual flavors. FoodFacts.com loves the idea that, enjoyed in moderation, that cup of coffee most of us enjoy so much can actually have some health benefits!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/259521.php

Even a small deficiency of Vitamin B-12 may put your at risk for accelerated cognitive disease

Since launching FoodFacts TRI Nutritionals earlier this month, FoodFacts.com has been actively researching vitamins and supplements and their effects on our health and well being.

Today we found a recent study that suggests that older adults may be at greater risk for accelerated cognitive decline if they aren’t getting enough Vitamin B-12. The study comes out of the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

Researchers at the HNRCA at Tufts examined data from almost 550 men and women who were enrolled in a heart study. They focused on their scores of the Mini-Mental State Examination. This exam consists of a list of questions and tasks that are routinely used to diagnose dementia. The participants were split into five groups all based on the levels of Vitamin B-12 in their blood.

The two groups of participants who had the lowest levels of Vitamin B-12 had experienced significantly Being in the two lowest groups was associated with a significantly faster rate of cognitive decline. This was determined by following their test scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination over the course of eight years.

While a severely low level of Vitamin B-12 deficiency is related to cognitive impairment, this study suggests that there are adverse effects related to levels of deficiency that are not considered severe. Over time, those participants in the second lowest group of Vitamin B-12 levels had the same outcome as those in the very lowest group. This leads researchers to believe that even small deficiencies of this important vitamin are effecting a larger population.

The analysis discovered that the Mini-Mental State Examination scores dropped an average of .24 points per year for the first three groups of participants, while falling an average of .35 points yearly in the lowest two groups. This is a meaningful difference in cognitive decline.

The study raises a definite concern regarding the population’s intake of Vitamin B-12 and notes that it becomes more difficult to maintain normal blood levels of the vitamin as we age. Older adults seem to have a more difficult time absorbing Vitamin B-12 from food into the blood stream. It’s because of that that the USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that people over 50 incorporate B-12 fortified foods or supplements into their diets.

FoodFacts.com is again happy to see that science is exploring the effects of natural solutions to health problems. If you’re over 50, you might want to consider this product from FoodFacts TRI Nutritionals for its quality ingredients and purity. However you decide to supplement, make sure you do. It’s a natural answer to a difficulty that would be best to avoid!

Read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121205102613.htm

Vitamin D linked to women’s cognitive health

FoodFacts.com has always appreciated the importance of vitamin intake in the health of the population. Our concerns with the quality of the vitamins and supplements available today have led us to launch our own brand, FoodFacts TRI Nutritionals that meet our high standards for purity and natural ingredients. Needless to say, we pay a lot of attention to news concerning how vitamins affect our lives.

There are two new studies of note that are illustrating how vitamin D may have a direct effect on the cognitive abilities of women as they age. It appears that higher levels of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. This is from research conducted at the Angers University Hospital in France. In another similar study out of the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, researchers found that low levels of vitamin D in older women are linked with a greater risk of cognitive impairment and decline.

The U.S. research analyzed over 6,000 older women. These participants had their vitamin D levels measured during a study dealing with fractures and their cognitive functioning tested by a state examination.

Low levels of vitamin D in these women were associated with a higher risk of cognitive impairment. And for those women who were cognitively impaired, low levels of the vitamin were linked to a larger risk of continued cognitive decline.

The study originating in France considered data from almost 500 older women. These participants were part of an osteoporosis study. The women in the study group who developed Alzheimer’s disease had lower vitamin D intake weekly than those who developed other forms of dementia or no dementia at all.

Studies have been published earlier this year that expressed concern that both men and women are not getting enough vitamin D. Vitamin D can come from diet, supplements or the sun. So there are a number of different opportunities to incorporate it into your life. If you have any concerns about your intake of vitamin D, you should access your sources. If you’re looking for a way to supplement, allow us to suggest FoodFactsTRI Vitamin D. Coming from FoodFacts.com, you’ll know that these supplements contain nothing controversial and the purest ingredients available. Regardless of how you incorporate more of this important vitamin into your life, it’s important for everyone to access their current intake and adjust accordingly!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121130222245.htm

In case you’re looking for a reason to eat more chocolate, read on …

FoodFacts.com was happy and surprised to read some new research that (loosely) links chocolate and increased brain power! We know how much some folks love chocolate and that it can often be a guilty pleasure. This information could alleviate some of the guilt.

Apparently, those countries that have the largest number of Nobel Prize winners are also the countries with the highest regular chocolate consumption per person. Seems pretty incredible, doesn’t it? Switzerland, for example, has one of the world’s largest numbers of Nobel laureates and it is also the country with the world’s highest chocolate consumption. This is actually from an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Swiss chocolate is very high quality, containing higher amounts of pure cocoa than other chocolates produced around the world. And, to really clarify the consumption part of the equation, Swiss people consume 120 three-ounce bars of chocolate each per year.

While the United States can happily claim our fair share of Nobel laureates, our population is much larger. The U.S. comes out in the middle of the list for these brainy prizewinners. And while we do consume quite a bit of chocolate, the products we consume are not as pure as those consumed in countries where chocolate is taken much more seriously. There are citizens of other countries who would not consider those products to be chocolates at all. For them, chocolate is an art form.

While the evidence can be considered a little farfetched, the data appears to be pretty solid. It seems that it is being attributed to the flavanols contained in cocoa. These are a subclass of flavanoids which are present in plant-based foods. Flavanoids have been linked to increased cognitive function. In fact, studies have shown that flavanoids are connected with reducing the risk of dementia.

Flavanols are thought to lower blood pressure and some animal studies have shown that they do improve cognitive ability.

The data examined showed that Switzerland is the top country for chocolate consumption and also ranks very high in its number of Nobel prizewinners. Sweden was another country cited for having had a very high number of Nobel laureates and plenty of chocolate lovers!

FoodFacts.com thought that this information, although fun and a little frivolous, looks like it may hold some truth based on the flavanol component of cocoa. Not to mention, we thought our community might enjoy learning about another reason why it may be okay to become better friends with chocolate!

There’s more information to learn about here:
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/251491.php