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Autumn 2009

News and research

European policy on Omega 3 challenged
London Metropolitan University is co-ordinating an international effort by leading scientists to improve EU proposals designed to regulate health claims for certain foods and supplements. The group are calling for the withdrawal and revision of an entire section on Omega-3 fatty acids from the drafted proposals, which it is thought could allow manufacturers to mislead consumers into believing that some foods are healthier than they really are.

A critique of EFSA's recommendations was submitted in a formal response to the public consultation on the document:

Read more:

Daily sweets in childhood may make adults aggressive
A study at Cardiff University - based on data from 17500 participants in the 1970 British Cohort Study – is the first in to effects of childhood diet on adult violence. It found 10-year-olds who ate sweets daily were significantly more likely to have a violence conviction by age 34. The observation was found to hold true even after other factors were taken into consideration.

Researchers suggested these children had not learnt to delay gratification, but other experts said already "difficult" children might be given more sweets. The study's publication follows much research on confectionary's effect on behaviour. For example, the Southampton study, published in The Lancet in 2007, saw a link between certain cocktails of food colourings and hyperactivity in children:

The study is published in the October issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry:

Strong link between obesity and depression
Doctors should pay more attention to the link between common mental illness and obesity in patients because the two health problems are closely linked, according to researchers at the University of Adelaide.

In an editorial published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the Adelaide researchers add support to claims of a two-way risk between obesity and common mental disorders.

Healthy levels of folate in pregnant women may prevent ADHD
A study published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry finds that low maternal folate levels are linked to the development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity problems in children at age seven to nine years. Researchers also found that children born to mothers with a low folate status had a notably smaller head circumference at birth, possibly indicating a smaller rate of prenatal brain growth.

Mothers' dieting may have harmful effect on daughters
Girls whose mothers are on a diet are almost twice as likely to have an eating disorder, a poll of more than 500 teenagers found today. Many girls say their mother has the biggest influence on their own self-image and they feel damaged by the effects of their mum's dieting and views on food.

Animal study links maternal high fat diet to brain development of offspring
Feeding high-fat food to pregnant and lactating  mice can affect their pups' brain development in ways that may cause them to be more vulnerable to obesity and more likely to engage in addictive-like behaviours in adulthood, a new study has found.

Antipsychotic drugs linked to metabolic effects in children and teenagers
Researchers have found that many children and teenagers treated with second generation antipsychotic medications experience significant weight gain as well as other harmful metabolic changes. They suggested these effects have not been studied properly in children and teenagers who have not taken these drugs before.

Mediterranean diet may prevent depression
The Mediterranean diet, already thought to protect against heart disease and cancer, may also help to prevent depression, according to a study of 10,094 healthy adults over four years reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They found depression was more than 30% less likely to develop in people who followed a diet high in vegetables, fruit and cereals, and low in red meat. However, the team stressed that additional, larger-scale studies were required. and

Bisphenol A Research Gaps to be addressed
Researchers studying the health effects of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) gathered at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina to launch a research initiative to enable an assessment of its possible human health effects.

The meeting will support human and animal research that will help determine if current exposures to BPA in the general population pose a potential health risk. Bisphenol A is a compound used in the manufacture of a wide range of plastic products, notably drinking bottles and the coatings on the inside of most food and beverage cans. There is concern that it may have harmful health effects including behavioural problems.

Other points of interest:

Campaigners start petition for more investment in mental health research
The Research Mental Health campaign has called upon the Government, the NHS, funding bodies, research institutions, the pharmaceutical industry and the third sector to commit to making mental health research a joint priority.

Research Mental Health believes a trebling in mental health research investment is needed, as mental illness causes 15% of the country's disease burden but receives just 5% of total health research spending.


Food and Behaviour Research – Events 2010
Food and Behaviour Research have announced provisional plans for a series of one-day conferences in 2010. Details of venues and dates are still awaiting confirmation, but the regions and dates are as follows:
Manchester – March 2010
Edinburgh – May 2010
Bristol – June 2010
Oxford (The Saïd Business School) – September 2010

Contact events co-ordinator, Ruth Whitfield, at if you are interested in helping to promote or support these events.



June and July 2009

Research news

Western diet linked to teens' poor mental health
A study by researchers at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth, Australia, has found that regular consumption of junk foods adversely affects the mental health of young people.

Article here:

Micronutrient and omega-3 fortification confer benefits on cognitive performance.
Different levels of micronutrient and omega-3 fortification were compared to find the effects on growth and cognitive performance for Indian schoolchildren. A high micronutrient treatment was shown to significantly improve growth at one year, as well as short-term memory at six months. However a lower dose was more beneficial for reasoning at both ages. Similar benefits were observed for weight, retrieval ability, cognitive speediness, and overall cognitive performance between the two doses. No significant differences were found between the different levels of omega-3 treatment.

Article here:

Statins may offer Alzheimer's protection
A study at the Netherlands University of Groningen indicates that the cholesterol-lowering drugs statins may have a protective effect against Alzheimer's disease. The statin Lovastatin not only prevented cell death in mice but also the loss of memory that usually follows. These results follow speculation that high cholesterol could be a risk factor for Alzheimer's.  Recent research from the same University also showed that statins appear to stimulate the production of protective chemicals in the brain.

The full article can be found in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, Volume 17:2 (June 2009).

Curry spice may prevent dementia
A study is being undertaken at the University of California, Los Angeles to test the effects of circumin – a substance found in the spice tumeric - on Alzheimer's patients. Circumin has been shown to reduce harmful plaques in the brains of mice, and there is evidence that those who eat curry once or twice a week are at lower risk from dementia.

Article here:

Dementia risk lowered by fish consumption, raised by meat consumption.
A study looking at fish and meat consumption in Latin America, China and India found that fish consumption was associated with lower rates of dementia except in India, while meat consumption was linked to an increased prevalence of dementia in all three sites. These findings reinforce data that suggest that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have a neuroprotective effect.

Article here:

Anxiety sufferers at greater risk from disordered eating
Research presented at the Royal College of Psychiatrists' 2009 Annual Meeting suggests that as many as one in five people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder could also have some form of disordered eating. In addition, disordered eating may occur in as many as one in three patients with other anxiety disorders. Psychiatrist Lynne Drummond calls for doctors and other health workers to be made more aware of the risk.

Article here:


Food and Behaviour Research:

24 September 2009, Oxford
Fatty Acids and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Workshop (FAND 2009) - Magdalen College, Oxford
An opportunity to share in the latest developments in this rapidly expanding area of study. The workshop will bring together research scientists from a wide range of different disciplines, and is also open to professionals and others with relevant experience.
25 September 2009, Oxford
Nutrition for Behaviour, Learning and Mood - Magdalen College, Oxford.
An opportunity to hear from a panel of top UK experts, researchers and practitioners about how nutrition affects behaviour, learning and mood.

Contact Information:  Fiona O'Fee on or 01463 667318

London Metropolitan University:

8 and 9 September 2009, London.
Intervention Strategies to Challenge the Rise in Mental Ill Health - 2 day short course.


April & May 2009

News and Policy

Update on products free from colours associated with hyperactivity (1 April 09)
The Food Standards Agency has updated its list of product ranges that do not contain the six food colours associated with possible hyperactivity in young children. This was done in order to encourage the food industry to participate in the voluntary ban, agreed to by Ministers late last year.

Article at:

Cadbury and Mars break promises on colours (19 March 09)
Campaigners at The Food Commission have criticised Cadbury and Mars for selling products that still contain one or more of the six artificial colours that can increase hyperactivity in children, despite the manufacturers' promises to remove the colours from  their sweets before 2009. Cadbury's Creme Egg, Mini Eggs, Starburst Choozers, and Mars Revels all contained the colours, at time of writing. The Food Commission expressed concern that the FSA's voluntary ban on the six colours is not effective enough, suggesting that a mandatory ban would be more successful.

Article at:

Men-only eating disorder website launched (6 April 2009)
'Men Get Eating Disorders Too' is a new website providing information about treatment and support for sufferers of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. It is thought to be the first website of its kind dedicated solely to male sufferers. The site also features a petition to call on the Government to offer better services for men with eating disorders.

Article at:

View the petition at:  at


Vegetarians at greater risk of eating disorders (1 April 09)
A population-based study in Minnesota suggests that vegetarians are at higher risk than those who have never followed a vegetarian diet of exhibiting disordered eating behaviour, such as binge eating and extreme weight-control. Adolescent and young adult vegetarians (and former vegetarians) were also more likely to exhibit these types of behaviour.

Article at:

Psychiatric disorders common in those with history of anorexia (26 March 09)
A study initiated in 1985 periodically investigated 51 teenagers with anorexia nervosa. Of these, around 25% are on disability benefit or have been signed off sick for more than six months due to an eating disorder or other psychiatric disorder. Thirty-nine percent have at least one other psychiatric disorder, in addition to the eating disorder. The most common of these is obsessive compulsive disorder.

Article at:

Fish oil protects against Parkinson's protein (20 April 09)
Scientists presented new research findings at the American Society for Nutrition Experimental Biology Annual Meeting, showing that an omega three fatty acid in the diet protects brain cells by preventing the misfolding of a protein resulting from a gene mutation in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Huntington's.

Article at:

Fish stocks insufficient to meet omega 3 demand (23 March 09)
Canadian scientists report that current fish stocks are insufficient to meet the nutritional demands of the human population if current trends continue, and say that industry must invest more in alternative sources of omega-3 to meet demand. Alternative sources available or in development include algal sources,  longer chain omega-3 obtained from plants via genetic engineering, and fungal treatment of biodiesel waste to create EPA.

Article at:

Walnuts may improve motor and behavioural skills in older people (31 March 09)
Findings reported in the British Journal of Nutrition suggest that adding a moderate amount of walnuts to an otherwise healthy diet may help older individuals improve performance on tasks that require motor and behavioural skills according to an animal model study  by researchers with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA). Walnuts contain polyphenols and other antioxidants and essential fatty acids.

Article at:

Caffeine present in dietary supplements (1 April 09)
A number of caffeine-containing products were analysed to explore caffeine levels by scientists in Maryland, United States. Many included caffeine-containing botanicals such as guarana, yerba mate, kola nut and green tea extract. However while pure caffeine must be listed in the ingredients, there is no such requirement to state the amount of caffeine present from other ingredients on the label. This means that consumers of dietary supplements may be unaware that they are consuming caffeine.

Article at:

How metals in food affect children's behaviour (25 March 09)
The contamination of food with certain metals needs to be urgently addressed in light of the growing evidence linking trace elements to negative human behaviour according to Neil Ward, professor of chemistry at the University of Surrey. Metals and other elements can be present in food naturally or as a result of human activities. It has long been known that excessive amounts of any metal could be dangerous, but there is now also strong evidence that some trace elements can contribute to aggressive or anti-social behaviour.

Article at:

Flavanol-rich chocolate drink helps maths performance (7 April 09)
A small study of 30 adults at Northumbria University indicated that the high level of cocoa flavanols in a chocolate drink improved cognitive performance in arithmetic tests. "The drink rich in cocoa flavanols significantly improved aspects of cognitive performance and levels of fatigue," said Crystal Haskell at the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre.

Article at:

Vitamin D deficiency may not be linked to depression (February 09)
Vitamin D deficiency has been speculated to play a role in the development of depression. A study in middle-aged and elderly Chinese participants suggests, however, that depressive symptoms are not associated with vitamin D concentrations.

Article at:


FAB Events (Food and Behaviour Research)
Tuesday, 2 June 2009 – Cardiff
Feeding a Better Future: Mothers' and Children's Diets
Barcelo Angel Hotel, Cardiff

Contact Information: Fiona O'Fee    01463 667318 

Details at:


Nutritional Care in Mental Health Training package.
Rotherham Early Intervention in Psychosis team are offering a training course  developed to give mental health professionals the skills and information to provide a full nutritional care package in their own service. Two courses are available: for practitioners and supervisors. The training course aims to give health professionals the following skills:

  • Knowledge of the effects of nutrients on mental wellbeing (and the effects of nutrients on physical health and wellbeing in a mental health setting)
  • Nutritional assessment for an individual within a mental health service
  • Analysis of food data to produce a nutrient profile detailing an individual's average nutrient intake
  • Confidence to give feedback for the individual so that they can initiate a positive dietary change
  • The course is provided via e-learning and is accredited by the University of Hull.

The next start date is 26 June, and registration must be completed three weeks in advance (future dates: 26 June 2009 28 august 2009 4 September 2009)


Trusthouse Charitable Foundation

The Foundation currently makes over 300 grants a year under two separate programmes:of which the majority are small grants (averaging £5,000).

Projects considered include: 

  • Health Care & Disability: physical and mental disability- including projects involving rehabilitation; medicine- support services for those suffering from chronic illness (e.g. dementia). 
  • Community Support: -drugs and alcohol (rehabilitation of users); ex-offenders- projects working with prisoners and ex-offenders to improve their life skills and reduce re-offending.

Contact: Judith Leigh (Grants Officer), The Trusthouse Charitable Foundation,  65 Leadenhall Street, London EC3A 2AD.  Tel: 020 7264 4990.

More information:

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

Food & Mental Health: The project promotes understanding of the links between good diet and mental wellbeing, addressing the many implications of the growing evidence linking what we eat to the way we feel and behave.

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