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December 2012

Subconscious aromas affect mood and food choice

Dutch researchers de Wijk and Zijlstra exposed 22 participants to ambient citrus or vanilla aromas and measured reactions using low-cost sensors and semi-real life settings. The citrus aroma increased, for example, physical activity and affected food choice, while vanilla increased “projected introvert emotions”, though all effects were small.

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 20th December 2012
Their source:

Can going hungry as a child slow down cognitive decline in later years?

Lisa Barnes and colleagues from the Rush University Medical Center(sic) in Chicago studied 6,158 people living in Chicago. The average age of participants was 75 and 62% were African American and they were asked a range of questions about their family background including on health, education and finances. Every three years, for up to 16 years, participants were tested for cognitive changes and African Americans who reported going without enough food, or who were thinner than other children their age had a slower rate of cognitive decline. This may be linked to other research that has shown that calorie restriction can delay age-related changes, or it may be a selective survival effect.

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 13th December 2012
Their source: Eurekalert 10th December 2012
Original source: Neurology

Eating a tomato a day ‘can cure depression’

Dr Kaijun Niu and colleagues, from China’s Tianjin Medical University analysed the diets and mental health of 1,000 people over 70 in Japan and found that those eating at least two tomatoes had a 52% lower risk of developing depression. It is not clear if this reduced risk is a direct result of lycopene in tomatoes, or if it is because lycopene is protecting against illnesses such as heart disease and cancer, which can trigger depression.

Source: Metro, 5th December 2012
Original source: Journal of Affective Disorders

Exposure to organophosphate sheep dip harms memory

Sarah Mackenzie Ross and colleagues and University College London and the Open University conducted a meta-analysis of 14 studies that, together, examined the health of 1,600 participants. The results show that low level exposure to organophosphates (OP) used in sheep dip produces lasting brain damage (particularly to memory and information processing, rather than language). The World Health Organization has long acknowledged that Ops are hazardous to vertebrate animals at higher levels, but lower level toxicity has been controversial.

Source: Soil Association News, 4th December 2012
Their source: Farmers Weekly, 3rd December 2012
Original source: Clinical Reviews in Toxicology

Maternal vitamin C important for babies’ brain development

Professor Jens Lykkesfeldt and colleagues at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, randomised 80 pregnant guinea pigs to be fed a diet either high (900 mg/kg) or low (100 mg/kg) in vitamin C. Guinea pigs were chosen because, like humans, they cannot produce vitamin C themselves. The group with the low vitamin C diet gave birth to pups with damaged brain development. This group was then divided into two, and one group given vitamin C supplements, but this group showed no improvement after two moths, indicating that the damage may not be reversable.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 20th November 2012.
Original source:



October 2012

Fruit and veg consumption linked to psychological well-being

Quotation from a new paper from Profs Oswald, Blanchflower and Steward-Brown: "Happiness and mental health rise in an approximately dose-response way with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables. The pattern is remarkably robust to adjustment for a large number of other demographic, social and economic variables. Well-being peaks at approximately 7 portions per day. We document this relationship in three data sets, covering approximately 80,000 randomly selected British individuals, and for seven measures of well-being (life satisfaction, WEMWBS mental well-being, GHQ mental disorders, self-reported health, happiness, nervousness, and feeling low)."

Our source: Pers. comm. Prof. Tim Lang
Sources: Social Indicators Research Journal and

Studies show how diet affects brain functions

A number of studies were presented at Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans, USA including:
- being obese appears to impair cognitive function
- skipping breakfast might increase the desire for food and increase consumption at lunch
- high sugar diets might dull spatial learning and memory skills

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 18th October 2012
Their source: 17th October 2012
Original source: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease

High carbohydrate and sugar diets increase risk of cognitive impairment

Dr Rosebud Roberts and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic followed 1,230 people aged 70 to 89 years. Following evaluation of cognitive function, 940 participants with no signs of cognitive impairment were asked to return for follow-up evaluations. Four years into the study, 200 participants began to show problems with memory and language and those that had reported the highest intake of sugar were 1.5 times more likely to develop such mild cognitive impairment, compared to those reporting consuming the lowest amount of sugar. Total carbohydrates, fat and protein were also reported and, taking these into account, those eating the highest amounts of carbohydrates were 3.6 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment.

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 18th October 2012
Their source: 16th October 2012
Original source: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease

Caffeine may block brain inflammation to reduce dementia risk

Professor Gregory Freund and colleagues from the University of Illinois examined the effects of caffeine on memory formation in mice. The group of mice given caffeine had lower inflammatory markers and recovered the ability to form memories after hypoxia (reducing oxygen to simulate what happens if breathing or blood flow is interrupted) 33% faster than mice not given caffeine.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 11th October 2012.
Original source: Journal of Neuroscience

Review of mood modifying effects of cocoa

Donald Smith, from Aarhus University in Denmark, has published a review of research into flavonol-rich cocoa-derived products, such as chocolate, for mental well-being. The review notes, among other things, that brain scans from people tasting chocolate show enhanced blood flow in regions such as the thalamus, which are associated with antidepressant activity. The review concludes, however, that more well-designed research is necessary in this area and that people should be cautious in recommending unconventional treatments involving such products.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 8th October 2012.
Original source: Journal of Functional Foods

Fast food children “develop lower IQs”

Dr Sophie von Stumm and colleagues, from the department of psychology at Goldsmiths University of London looked at 4,000 Scottish children aged three to five years old and the type of main meal they ate each day. The study found that parents with a higher socio-economic status reported that they gave their children meals prepared with fresh ingredients more often, which positively affected their IQ. Lower socio-economic status was linked to more children having fast food, which led to lower IQ scores.

Source: Soil Association News, 4th October 2012
Their source: Daily Mail, 4th October 2012
Original source: Not given

The obese brain may thwart weight loss

Research by Terry Davidson, director of American University's Center for Behavioral (sic) Neuroscience, and his team indicates that diets high in saturated fat and refined sugar may cause changes to the brains of obese people that, in turn, may fuel overconsumption and make weight loss more difficult. Rats were given restricted access to low-fat "lab chow" on two problems—one that tested the rats' hippocampal-dependent learning and memory abilities and one that did not. After the training phase, the rats were split into two groups: one with unlimited access to the low-fat lab chow, the other with unlimited access to high-fat/calorie dense food. When both groups of rats were given the problems again, the rats that became obese from the high-energy diet performed worse than the non-obese rats did on the problem designed to test hippocampal-dependent learning and memory. When the researchers later examined all of the rats' blood-brain barriers, they found that the obese rats' blood-brain barriers had become impaired and more permeable.

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 4th October 2012
Their source: EurekAlert, 1st October 2012
Original source: Physiology and Behavior (sic)

Cocoa flavanols give snail brains a boost

Epicatechin is a flavonoid found in dark chocolate, wine and green tea and Lukowiak and colleagues trained snails to close their breathing hols when dunked in water. Those snails exposed to epicatechin were able to remember to do this for three days, as opposed to three hours for unexposed snails. The effect was so strong that experimental attempts to reverse the process were unsuccessful.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 1st October 2012.
Original source: Journal of Experimental Biology

Moderately high blood sugar linked with dementia

Nicolas Cherbuin, PhD, and colleagues at the Australian National University in Canberra studied 249 people, aged 60 to 64 with blood sugar in the normal range. Participants had brain scans at the outset and again four years later, on average. Even within the normal range of blood sugar, those with higher levels were more likely to lose brain volume in the areas that are involved in memory and cognitive skills.

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 6th September 2012
Their source: EurekAlert, 3rd September 2012
Original source: Neurology

Adolescents with metabolic syndrome at increased risk of impaired brain function

Antonio Convit, MD, professor of psychiatry and medicine at New York University School of Medicine and a member of the Nathan Kline Research Institute, and colleagues compared 49 adolescents with metabolic syndrome* to 62 without the disorder. Following several tests, those with metabolic syndrome took longer to do tasks, could not read as well and had poorer scores in mathematics.

(*Considered to be three or more of five health problems: abdominal obesity, low HDL – “good” cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and pre-diabetic insulin resistance.)

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 6th September 2012
Their source: EurekAlert, 3rd September 2012
Original source: Pediatrics

Food and Addiction: A Comprehensive Handbook

This book has been published by Oxford University Press and edited by Kelly Brownell and Mark Gold. Kelly Brownell runs the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in the US, and Mark Gold is based at the Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Florida in the US. It is the first comprehensive collection of academic literature on addictive properties of food, and chapters range from science and health research to the policy and legal implications.

Source: World Public Health Nutrition Association online newsletter, 10th September 2012

Growing evidence of the links between diet and Alzheimer’s disease

In September the writer George Monbiot drew attention the large and growing volume of evidence linking unhealthy diets to metabolic diseases and Alzheimer’s disease. He notes that, for some scientists, the connection between metabolic syndrome (see above) and the condition is so strong that some are now now referring to Alzheimer’s as diabetes type 3. He refers in particular to a cover story in the New Scientist (Bijal Trivedi, 1st September 2012. Eat Your Way to Dementia. New Scientist, available only on subscription ) but also draws on a wide range of sources.

Source: The Mind Thieves, George Monbiot, Also published in The Guardian, 11th September 2012


2nd November, 2012
Launch of the Association of Social and Therapeutic Horticulture Practitioners
1st Annual Conference, ‘Together We can Grow’, at Pershore College (Part of Warwickshire College), Worcestershire.
This 1st annual conference featured Joe Sempik, Rachel Bragg and Jon Fieldhouse. Information about the new association is here

17/18th November, 2012
From Autism to Alzheimer's:The Diagnosis and Treatment of Neuropsychiatric Disease in the 21st Century
Great Plains Laboratory and Biolab Medical Unit, London

August 2012

Obese people more likely to lose memory

Researchers at University College, London in the UK, working with the Paris research institute Iserm, studied data from 6,500 Whitehall civil servants over a period of 10 years. During that period, as well as taking physiological measurements, participants were asked to perform mental tests on three separate occasions in the decade. Those who were obese lost mental powers faster than thinner people, and participants who had additional conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol lost memory and thinking skills the fastest of all.

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 30th August 2012
Their source: The Daily Telegraph, 30th August 2012
Original source: Neurology journal

Some food flavours affect moods

More than 1,700 natural compounds were analysed by Dr Karina Martinez-Mayorga and her team at the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies in the USA, with funding from Robertet Flavors Inc and the State of Florida. They analysed food flavour ingredients and compared them to approved antidepressants, marketed drugs and agents with reported antidepressant activity. The research found that many flavour compounds are similar to valproic acid, a widely-used prescription compound for stabilising mood. Chocolate, several varieties of berries, and teas could be mood-enhancers.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 20th August 2012.
Original source: 244th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society

US patents granted for brain health supplement

The US Patent and Trademark Office has granted patents for magnesium L-threonate, marketed as Magtein, for cognitivie function and neurological disorders. The ingredient was discovered by Dr Guosong Liu and a group of scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. Studies on the ingredient have been published in the journal Neuron and in The Journal of Neuroscience and the research in Neuron showed that Magtein could increase learning ability, working memory and short- and long-term memory in young and old rats. Magtein was developed by Magceutics and is distributed exclusively by the company AIDP.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 15th August 2012.

Gut bacteria may regulate happiness

Scientists fro the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre in Cork, the Republic of Ireland, used a germ-free mouse model to show that absence of bacteria in early life significantly reduces levels of serotonin in the brain in adulthood. Serotonin is involved in regulating mood and emotion and this study showed more marked reductions in male mice than female mice. The researchers also found that the changes they observed could not be reversed, so the absence of bacteria in the gut during early development may have a permanent effect on brain function.

Source: Foods Matter, 12th August 2012
Their source: Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre
Original source: Molecular Psychiatry

Healthy diets in early childhood linked to higher IQ

Dr Lisa Smithers and her team at the University of Adelaide, Australia have reported that a healthy diet in early years can slightly improve IQ scores in later childhood. Their study looked at data from 7079 children, from the UK-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Dietary patterns were assessed at 6, 15 and 24 months, and compared with IQ scores at age 8. Those children who were breastfed at 6 months and had a healthy diet regularly including foods such as legumes, fruit, vegetables and cheese had a slightly higher IQ, aged 8, than children who had a diet regularly including biscuits, chocolate, sweets, soft drinks and chips.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 8th August 2012.
Original source: European Journal of Epidemiology, volume 27, no.7

Butter flavouring linked to Alzheimer’s disease process

Professor Robert Vince and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota, USA, have shown that the food ingredient diacetyl (DA) intensifies the beta-amyloid protein clumping that is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. DA has a buttery taste and smell so, as a result, is widely used in margarines, snack foods such as microwave popcorn, sweets, baked food and some alcoholic drinks. However, the study evidence suggests it is occupational exposure to DA that might be linked to developing Alzheimer’s. More research is needed on exposure from DA-containing food.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 3rd August 2012.
Original source: Chemical Research in Toxicology

Caffeine may ease some Parkinson’s symptoms

Dr Ronald Postuma and his team at McGill University, Canada, have found that caffeine may help control movement in people suffering from Parkinson’s. A control group were given a placebo, while 61 people with Parkinson’s were given a 100mg dose of caffeine twice a day for three weeks, then 200mg twice a day for another three weeks. This is the equivalent of between two and four cups of coffee a day. There was also a modest five point improvement on the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (used to measure the severity of the disease).

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 2nd August 2012.
Original source: Neurology

Rising industry interest in cognitive claims

Leatherhead Food Research (LFR) will shortly launch a new research project with the University of Sussex to help food processors meet the strict procedures required by the European Food Safety Authority (see below) on making cognitive health claims. Dr Martin Whickham, head of nutrition at LFR said that they are already being approached by major multinational food companies investigating cognitive claims. These include companies involved in air travel that are interested in serving meals to passengers that could help them sleep, and then wake them up.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 1st August 2012.

EFSA issues guidance on cognitive health claims

The European Food Safety Agency has issued guidance on making cognitive health claims for foods and nutrients, following a consultation exercise conducted in 2011. The guidance confirms the EFSA’s preference for data from human intervention trials to back up any claims made. Potential claims include ones relating to memory, attention and concentration, alertness, learning, intelligence, language and problem solving.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 18th July 2012.
Original source:


Celebrating Care Farming: Overcoming Current Challenges.
Monday 19th November
Royal Over-seas League, London SW1A 1LR
£50 for members, £75 for non-members of Care Farming UK
More details:

June 2012

Prenatal exposure to insecticide can affect brain

Professor Virginia Rauh and researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in the USA, have examined the effects of chlorpyrifos, a widely used insecticide. Published in the PNAS Journal, the research studied mothers and their children who were exposed to chlorpyrifos in New York City before the insecticide was banned for household use in 2001. Measures were taken during pregnancy and children were followed from birth into middle childhood. The research showed changes in children’s brain structure, consistent with cognitive deficits, even at low to moderate levels of exposure to the chemical.

Source: Soil Association News, 3rd May 2012
Their source: Farming Online
Original source: Journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Aspartme linked to defective special memory

A new study demonstrates for the first time that lifetime exposure to the artificial sweetener Aspartame may be linked to defective spatial memory (the ability to remember the location of objects) and problems with maintaining optimal blood glucose levels. Diabetics develop imbalances in blood glucose levels and previous research has shown that diabetics are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's Disease and/or various forms of dementia. Although the research is still underway, earlier studies have linked imbalances in blood glucose levels to memory impairment. Caution must be applied, however, since the study was performed in a small-animal model; and cannot be directly extrapolated to humans.

Source: Open-Access Public Library of Science website

Chewing gum impairs short term memory

Michail Kozlov and colleagues at Cardiff University used tests with around 40 students to examine the impact of chewing gum on short term memory (STM). The results show that memory recall is impaired, contrary to previous studies that suggest gum can improve recall. The researchers note that they used flavourless gum, and flavoured gum usually loses its flavour after several minutes of chewing. Nonetheless, they wan that flavoured gum could offset the negative effect on STM.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 10th May 2012.
Original source: Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology

Vegetarian diet may improve mood

The research divided 39 healthy omnivores into three groups, asked to follow an omnivorous, fish or vegetarian diet. Before and after two weeks on these diets participants completed two different questionnaires designed to assess their mood. The results showed participants in the vegetarian group had significantly better reported mood than the other groups. The authors consider that the vegetarian diet, being richer in antioxidants, may protect from oxidative stress.

Source: The Vegetarian, The quarterly magazine of the vegetarian society, Summer 2012
Original source: Bonnie L Beezhold and Carol S Johnston (2012) Nutrition Journal 11:9

Sugar makes you dumber – fish oil can help

Professor Fernando Gomez-Pinilla and his colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles studied two groups of rats that each consumed a fructose solution as drinking water for six weeks. The second group also received omega-3 fatty acids. The rats had previously been trained through a maze for five days before starting the experimental diet. Six weeks later the omega-3 group of rats navigated the maze much faster than the group consuming the fructose solution. Professor Gomez-Pinilla suspects that high amounts of sugar could block insulin’s ability to regulate how cells use and store the energy needed for processing thoughts.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 18th May 2012.
Original source: Journal of Physiology

Saturated fats hamper brain function and memory

Researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston in the USA, led by Dr Olivia Okerek, analysed data from more than 6,000 women. This was a subset of the 40,000 Women’s Health Study, and it was found that women over 65 who ate the most saturated fats had worse cognitive and verbal memory scores than those who ate the least. Cognitive testing took place at the beginning of the study, for a second time after two years and for a final time after another two years. Detailed food frequency surveys were completed before the first cognitive testing.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 21st May 2012.
Original source: Annals of Neurology

Epidemic of autism amongst US children may be linked to the typical American diet

Renee Dufault and his team have explored how diets high in High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) could affect the level of minerals in the diet which, in turn, could impair the body’s ability to rid itself of toxic chemicals that can affect brain development. Consuming HFCS is associated with dietary loss of zinc which can inhibit the ability to eliminate heavy metals. Consuming HFCS is also linked to loss of calcium, which is needed to help the body get rid of organophosphates.

Source: Foods Matter, 27th May 2012
Their source: Medical News Today
Original source: Clinical Epigenetics

Mediterranean diet linked to improved mental health and quality of life

A study of 11,000 university students over four years has shown that the Mediterranean diet (high in fruit, vegetables, pulses, fish, olive and nuts) has other benefits as well as physical health. Researchers at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, led by Patricia Henriquez Sanchez, did the study as part of the SUN Project. Dietary intake data was taken at the beginning of the study and self-perceived quality of life was measured at the end of the four years. Results showed those following the Mediterranean diet scored higher on a range of measures of physical and mental well-being.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 30th May 2012.
Original source: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

High fat diets and depression

Dr Stephanie Fulton and researchers affiliated with Montreal’s University Hospital Research Centre and the university’s Faculty of Medicine are exploring the relationship between depressive symptoms and high-fat diets. Different kinds of food were fed to mice and their behaviour was monitored. Mice fed a higher-fat diet showed signs of anxiety and depression. The mice’s brains were also examined and mice fed a higher-fat diet also showed brain changes, including higher coritcosterone levels, a hormone linked to stress.

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 31st May 2012
Their source: Medical News Today
Original source: International Journal of Obesity, 17th April 2012

Most people do not achieve optimal brain nutrition

Professor David Kennedy, director of the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre, at Northumbria University, gave a presentation at a recent Vitafoods exposition and conference. He suggested that current nutrition guidelines do not go far enough to help people have optimal nutrition for their brain’s functioning. He considered that vitamin and mineral supplements may be necessary for people who do not have an optimal diet.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 1st June 2012.
Their source:

Three coffees a day keep dementia away

A study of 124 people aged between 65 and 88 was undertaken by neuroscientist Chuanhai Cao and a team of researchers. The participants had mild cognitive impairment and were expected to develop Alzheimer’s in a few years. However, those with a blood caffeine level above 1200 ng/ml did not develop the disease over the two to four year period of the study, and their main or only source of caffeine was coffee.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 7th June 2012.
Original source: Journal of Alzheimer’s disease

Cochrane review casts doubt on omega-3 benefits for dementia

Three clinical trials were reviewed that, together, followed 3,536 healthy adults of 60 years old for up to three and half years. Some participants took omega-3 capsules or margarine, while others used placebos or other margarines without omega-3s. Memory and thinking tests were used to monitor any cognitive decline. The systematic review team was led by Emma Sydenham from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and they concluded that omega-3 supplementation appeared to offer no short term cognitive benefits. However, the researchers also concluded that longer term effects should be investigated.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 13th June 2012.
Original source: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

Happiness is a gut feeling

Dr Gerard Clark and colleagues from the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre at University College Cork used a germ-free mouse model to show that concentrations of serotonin in adults brains were significantly affected by gut bacteria in young individuals. Male were more heavily influenced than females by the presence (or absence) of bacteria. Serotonin is the hormone associated with regulation of mood and emotion. Previous work by this team has suggested that a microbiome-gut-brain axis ir responsible for maintaining all sorts of chemical and neurochemical balances in the body.

Source: Science Omega Newsletter, 19th June 2012
Original source: Molecular Psychiatry


26-28 June 2012
The Canadian Obesity Network co-hosted this event on Obesity and Mental Health in Toronto, Ontario with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the International Association for the Study of Obesity. Details of some of the conference papers may be available.

Monday 19th November 2012
Care Farming UK’s annual conference will be held in London at the Royal Overseas League. More details will be available soon on their website


April 2012

Brain development of premature babies may be influenced by maternal obesity

Maternal obesity may contribute to cognitive impairment in extremely premature babies, according to Jennifer Helderman and her researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in the US. The study looked at 921 infants born before 28 weeks gestation, in the period 2002 to 2004 at 14 institutions. The placenta was assessed for infection and other abnormalities, and mothers were interviewed and had their medical records reviewed. The children’s cognitive skills were assessed at 2 years of age and maternal obesity, lack of high school education, and a pre-term blood clot in the placenta were all associated with impaired cognitive function.

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 15th March 2012
Original source: Pediatrics, March 2012

More Trans Fat Consumption Linked to Greater Aggression

Adverse health effects of dietary Trans Fatty Acids (dTFAs) include high blood fats, impaired metabolic function, insulin resistance, oxidation, inflammation and higher cardiac risk. Beatrice Golomb, and her team of researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, have shown dTFAs are also linked to irritability and aggression. Published online by PLos ONE, the research assessed 945 adult women and men, using dietary information and a range of methods to assess irritability and aggression. Analyses were adjusted for sex, age, education and use of alcohol and tobacco. More dTFAs were significantly associated with more aggression.

Source: Science Daily, 13 March 2012
Original source: PLos ONE

High body mass index in older adults causes lower cognitive performance

Research published in Age and Ageing found that older adults (aged below 70) with a high body mass index (BMI) are more likely to suffer from a lower cognitive function. Dae Hyun Yoon and colleagues studied 250 adults over 60, between 2004 and 2009 and took a range of measurements of body fat, as well as measuring cognitive performance. Among participants below age 70, obese adults were older, more likely to be male, and more likely to have poor cognitive performance and higher hypertension, compared to non-obese participants. The association is with visceral adipose tissue in particular, and there was no link with poor cognitive performance among the over 70s.

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 22nd March 2012
Original source: AlphaGalileo Foundation, 20th March 2012

Curcumin may help reduce risk of Parkinson’s disease

Professor Lisa Lapidus and co-researchers at Michigan State University, USA, have found that curcumin, found in the spice tumeric, prevents the clumping of a protein – alpha-synuclein – which is involved in Parkinson’s disease. The researchers noted that when curcumin binds to alpha-synuclein it not only stops the clumping, but also speeds up the protein’s folding and reconfiguration.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 23rd March 2012.
Original source: Journal of Biological Chemistry

Fast food “gives you the blues” study finds

Dr Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, and colleagues from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, studied almost 9,000 participants over six months who had not been previously diagnosed with depression. Their research, published in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition, showed that people who often ate food such as hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza were more likely to develop depression than those who rarely or never ate them. The study also showed a dose-response relationship, so the more fast food people reported eating, the more likely they were to suffer from depression.

Source: Food Ethics Council New Brief, 2 April 2012
Their source: Article by Hannah Furness in The Telegraph, 2 April 2012
Original source: Journal of Public Health Nutrition, issue 15, March 2012.

Doctors should prescribe gardening says President of Royal College of Physicians (RCP)

Sir Richard Thompson, RCP President and Patron of Thrive (the gardening charity for people with mental or physical health problems) recommends that doctors prescribe gardening for people with conditions such as depression, anxiety and dementia. He noted that part of the problem is lack of time for doctors to talk to their patients which might allow them to avoid prescribing expensive drugs and explore the many benefits of gardening. Thrive continues to support a range of research programmes to demonstrate these benefits.

Source: Thrive newsletter, 2 April 2012

Gastointestinal disorders can drive and be driven be psychological factors

Researchers at the Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales in Australia studied 1775 people over 12 years (with 1002 completing the follow up survey). They have concluded that the central nervous system and the gut interact bidirectionally in functional gastrointestinal disorders. In other words issues such as anxiety can cause symptoms of gut disorders and also vice versa.

Source: Foods Mattter, 8 April 2012
Original source: Gut – An International Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology

Infant malnutrition increases risk of adult attention deficit disorder

Researchers from Judge Baker Children’s Center (sic), Harvard Medical School and the Barbados Nutrition Study assessed 145 Barbadian adults who had been followed since the late 1960s and early 1970s. Eighty of the adults had experienced moderate to severe protein-energy malnutrition during infancy, with the remaining 65 being healthy classmates of this group, matched for age and gender. A number of assessments were undertaken which showed that malnutrition during the first year of life is linked to attention deficits in midlife, despite participants having received excellent nutritional rehabilitation throughout childhood.

Source: FoodNavigator newsletter, 11th April 2012.
Original source: Journal of Nutrition

Maternal obesity associated with higher autism risk

Researchers from the University of California (Davis, California) and Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee) gathered data on 1,005 children, between two and five years old, who had been enrolled in another study running from 2003 to 2010. Of this group, 517 has autism spectrum disorder, 172 had other developmental disorders and the rest were developing normally. The researchers found a strong association between maternal obesity and/or diabetes and these disorders.

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 12th April 2012
Their source: Medical News Today
Original source: Pediatrics (sic) journal

Eating berries can halt dementia for 2½ years

Dr Elizabeth Devore and other researchers at the Harvard Medical School have found that eating 75 grammes of blueberries and 150 grammes of strawberries every week can help delay cognitive ageing by up to two and a half years. The team looked at data from 121,700 registered female nurses who started completing questionnaires in 1976. They were surveyed every four years between 1995 and 2001 and cognitive function was measured every two years in the 16,000 women aged over 70.

Source: The Scotsman, 26th April 2012
Original source: Annals of Neurology


February 2012

BPA exposure in the womb linked to behavioural problems in young girls

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical that is used in many hard plastic bottles and metal-based food and drink containers. There are long-standing concerns about the health effects of the chemical leaching into food and drinks and, thereby, being ingested by people.

Joe Braun and other researchers at Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University in the USA, studied 244 mothers. Urine samples were measured at 16 and 26 weeks gestation, and at 1, 2 and 3 years of age in their children. BPA was found in more than 97% of the samples and each 10-fold increase in BPA was associated with more anxious and depressed behaviour, as well as poorer emotional control and inhibition, particularly among girls.

Source: Foodsmatter newsletter 51, 31st December 2011
Original source: Pediatrics, Vol. 128 No.5 1st November 2011 pp873-882 link

Trans fats and nutrient intake linked to Alzheimer’s brain shrinkage

Dr Gene Bowman’s research team, at Oregon Health & Science University, USA, studied the blood plasma nutrient levels of 104 healthy individuals, with an average age of 87 and few known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Those with high levels of trans fats in their blood performed poorly in memory and thinking tests, while participants with higher levels of vitamin B, C, D and E – and those with high levels of omega-3 fats – performed well in the tests.

In addition, brain scans of 42 participants found those with higher vitamin levels had larger brains, whereas those with high trans fat levels were prone to brain shrinkage (which is associated with Alzheimer’s).

Trans fats have already been linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease and have been banned in some countries, such as Denmark and Switzerland, and in New York, USA.

Source:, 2nd January 2012
Original source: Neurology

Obesity linked to brain damage

Researchers at the Diabetes and Obesity Center (sic) at the University of Washington in Seattle, led by Michael Schwartz, have been examining why the hypothalamus of overweight animals – including humans – is inflamed. They were surprised to find that laboratory mice and rats put on a high fat diet showed inflammation of the hypothalamus within 24 hours of being put on the diet. There was also a strong and rapid neuro-protective response, as cells began to repair the damage. However, as the animals were kept on the high fat diet for nine months, the inflammation eventually returned. This might help to explain why overweight people find it so difficult to lose weight if they have damage to the brain area that is responsible for controlling weight.

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 5th January 2012
Their source: Voice of America, 3rd January 2012

Effect of maternal consumption of fish on child development

A research project, funded by the European Union, has reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that children born to women who consumed more fish during their pregnancies showed improved results in tests for verbal intelligence, fine motor skills and prosocial behaviour. The results are part of the NUTRIMENTHE (“Effect on diet on the mental performance of children”) project, which has €5.9 million funding under the EU’s “Food, agriculture and fisheries, and biotechnology” (KBBE) Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

Source: Associate Parliamentary Food and Health Forum, Food in Parliament January 2012 bulletin.
Their source: European Commission website 9 January 2012

‘Mild’ dehydration may modify mood

Professor Lawrence Armstrong and colleagues at the University of Connecticut, USA have found that 1.5% loss in normal water volume – before most people recognise they are thirsty – may be enough to alter mood, and reduce energy levels and the ability to think clearly.

The research population was two groups of young men and women who typically exercised for 30 to 60 minutes per day, and they were put through a number of tests at different levels of hydration. Women appear to be more susceptible to the effects of dehydration.

The research was supported by Danone (which produces bottled water) and run in partnership with the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine and several US universities.

Source:, 21st February 2012
Original source: British Journal of Nutrition

Women with celiac disease suffer from depression and disordered eating

Coeliac disease (an autoimmune disorder association with eating gluten) has been studied by researchers at Penn State, Syracuse University and Drexel University. The research was a web-mediated survey of 177 American women over the age of 18 and found that those complying well with a gluten free diet had fewer symptoms than who did not, but were still more likely than the general population to report symptoms of depression and disordered eating. Researchers noted that the disease, stress, weight, shape and eating issues, and depression are interconnected but the causal direction is not yet clear.

Source: Foodsmatter newsletter 55, 25th February 2012
Their source: Science Daily, 27 December 2011

Flavanol rich chocolate could boost brain performance

David Carnfield and fellow researchers at Swinburne University, Australia reported that 30 days of supplementation with a high-flavanol chocolate drink did not affect behavioural measures of accuracy and reaction time in the 63 volunteers, aged between 40 and 65. However, the randomised, controlled double-blind study did show, using CT brain scans, that a number of brain areas improved in terms of working memory and information retrieval.

The research was supported by cocoa product company, Barry Callebaut.

Source:, 29th February 2012
Original source: Physiology and Behaviour

Omega-3 rich diet could protect against brain aging

Dr Zaldy Tan and other researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles have found that high intakes of omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), could help protect the aging brain. Over 1,500 dementia-free participants (average age 67) underwent MRI brain scans and a series of physiological and mental tests. People with DHA levels in the lowest 25% of the group had lower brain volume, appearing two years older than the remainder of the group. Low levels of all omega-3s were also associated with less blood supply to the brain, and lower scores on tests such as visual memory and problem solving.

Source:, 5th March 2012
Original source: Neurology


22 March, London
Mood Food – Feeding top performers. Organised by Footprint Forum (a catering magazine) and featuring, among others, Professor John Stein, Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience at Oxford. Tickets are £155 plus VAT and a fee and more details are here

A series of five seminars is being run by Paula Conway, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, and Manager of Grow2Grow at Commonwork, a recovery project for young people – The seminars are for professionals and run from 22 March to 19th July. Details are available here.

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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