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Sustain / Food & Mental Health

News, 2006 to 2013

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December 2013

Pesticides “could harm brain development of unborn babies”
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recommended lower limits on human exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides.  Researchers experimenting on rats found two chemicals in this group of pesticides damaged the development of neurons and brain structures linked to learning and memory. Neonicotinoids are designed to attack the nervous systems of insects and have been in the headlines for being linked to damage to bees.

Source: Soil Association News 18th December 2013
Their source: The Independent, 17th December 2013
Original source: European Food Safety Authority

Junk food can harm memory in only a week
Professor Margaret Morris and colleagues from the University of New South Wales in Australia fed rats a diet high in fat and sugar had impaired memory after only a week.  Similar results were seen when the rates were fed a healthy diet but were given sugary water to drink, although some aspects of memory were unaffected by either diet.

Source:  IASO News Service, 19th December 2013
Their source: Australia Food News
Original source: Brain, Behaviour and Immunity

Health professionals say Mediterranean diet is the best way to prevent dementia
A range of health professionals wrote an open letter to UK Health Minister Jeremy Hunt in the run up to the G8 Dementia Summit in London in December.  Dr Aseem Malhotra was among those emphasising the robust evidence showing that a healthy, Mediterranean-style diet can help prevent dementia, as well as a range of other chronic diseases such as heart disease.

Source: Prevention Information Evidence (P.I.E.) briefing 11th December 2013 from UK Health Forum
Original source:  The Guardian newspaper, 8th December 2013

Probiotics alleviate “austistic” behaviour in mice
Elaine Hsiao of the California Institute Technology, and colleagues, believe that their research with mice is the first to show that changes in gut bacteria can influence autism spectrum disorder (ASD) type symptoms.  The gastrointestinal tracts of the mice were found to “leak” material into the bloodstream, in a similar way to that reported in some autistic people.  Giving the mice Bacteroides fragilis not only corrected their leaky gut, but also reduced their ASD-like behaviour.  The researchers are now planning to test probiotics with people suffering from autism.

Source:, 6th December 2013
Original source: Cell journal

EFSA dismisses link between diacetyl and Alzheimer’s
Diacetyl is a flavouring, produced during fermentation, which is authorised for use in the European Union to give foods a “buttery” taste.  Concerns were first raised by researchers in the Netherlands who linked the substance to the lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome.  Since then several studies have linked diacetyl to respiratory and other problems, and a study in August 2012 (in Chemical Research in Toxicology) suggested a link to Alzheimer’s disease. However the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) considers that this research did not provide “any correlation between occupational exposure and systemic exposure”.  This EFSA opinion does not relate to the research on respiratory conditions.

Source:, 3rd December 2013

More evidence that pesticides increase risk of Parkinson’s Disease
Professor Stuart Lipton and colleagues at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in the USA have used skin cells from Parkinson’s patients to explore any connection with pesticide exposure.  Damage to neurons was observed with short exposures to doses well below levels accepted by the Environmental Protection Agency. The team plans more research on how genes and the environment interact to contribute to other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

Source: The Scotsman, 28th November
Original source: Cell (journal)

Sugary drinks tinker with vital proteins in the brain
Jane Franklin and colleagues at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia gave 24 adults rats either water or water with 10% sugar (about the same as soft drinks) for 26 days, followed by seven days with both groups on water.  The rats that drank sugary water were hyperactive and had altered proteins in the decision making part of their brains, and 30% of these altered proteins are linked with conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and schizophrenia. 

Source: Soil Association News 15th November 2013
Their source: New Scientist, 14th November 2013
Original source: Society for Neuroscience conference, San Diego, California


November 2013

Meta-analysis shows Mediterranean diet may protect against cognitive decline and depression
Professor Theodora Psaltopoulou and colleagues from the University of Athens School of Medicine in Greece undertook a meta-analysis of a range of studies, including longitudinal cohort, case-control and cross-sectional.  They found that eating a Mediterranean diet (whether or not in a Mediterranean country) seems to protect against cognitive impairment (including Alzheimer’s Disease) and depression.
Source:, 29th October 2013
Original source: Annals of Neurology

Higher blood sugar levels linked to cognitive decline
Dr Agnes Floel and colleagues from Charité University of Medicine in Berlin, Germany, studied 141 people (average age 63) who were not overweight, did not drink more than 3.5 servings of alcohol per day and had no sign of diabetes or cognitive problems.  As well as cognitive tests and physiological tests participants also had brain scans.  Those with higher blood sugar levels performed worse in the tests so the researchers recommend lowering blood glucose levels by, for example, reducing calorie intake and increasing exercise. 
Source:, 24th October 2013
Original source: Neurology

High levels of omega-3s in the blood may reduce risks of brain abnormalities in elderly
Professor Jyrki Virtanen and colleagues from the University of Eastern Finland analysed data from more than 2,000 elderly people for five years, taking magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to locate subclinical brain abnormalities.  They found that those with high serum omega-3 status – associated with regularly eating oily fish - were 40% less likely to have such abnormalities. 
Source:, 18th October 2013
Original source: Journal of the American Heart Association

Depression and unhealthy diet in pregnancy can reduce children’s IQ
Dr Edward Barker and colleagues from King’s College, London, looked at data from 6,979 women and their children in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in the UK.  They found that women who are depressed during pregnancy are more likely to eat an unhealthy diet and this can damage their children’s cognitive function in later life.
Source:  IASO News Service, 17th October 2013
Their source: The British Journal of Psychiatry

Caffeine may slow growth of children’s brains
Reto Huber and colleagues at the University Children’s Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland fed varying caffeine doses to 30-day-old Sprague Dawley rats for five days and measured slow brain wave activity (SWA).  The caffeine - equivalent to three or four coffees a day in humans – slowed down the development of the adolescent rats’ brains and also seemed to reduce deep sleep and make the rats more timid.  Given the nature of children’s developing brains the researchers consider the results might be significant for humans.  
Source:, 26th September 2013
Original source: PLoS ONE

Correct ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 contributes to children’s development
Dr Sarah Keim and colleagues at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in the USA consider that children are not eating enough fish containing polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Studying nearly 2500 children aged 12 to 60 months the team found that children were consuming 10 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s (some experts suggest that the ratio should be 1:1).  A good ratio plays an important role in cell function and neural function so this poor ratio is cause for concern.
Source: Prevention Information Evidence (P.I.E.) briefing 18th September 2013 from UK Health Forum
Their source: Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Original source: Maternal and Child Nutrition

Healthy diets lowers depression risk
Anu Russunen’s dissertation (see below) found that increased intake of folate and a healthy diet was associated with a lower risk of depression.
Source: Prevention Information Evidence (P.I.E.) briefing 18th September 2013 from UK Health Forum
Original source: University of Eastern Finland, published dissertation

Mediterranean diet may reduce risk of dementia
Iliana Lourida and colleagu​es at the University of Exeter analysed 24 studies showing that a Mediterranean diet was linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, lower rate of cognitive decline and better general cognitive function.  The researchers are calling for more randomised controlled trials to confirm these results.
Source: Prevention Information Evidence (P.I.E.) briefing 11th September 2013 from UK Health Forum
Their source: The Independent newspaper, 3rd September 2013
Original source: PubMed                   

Being too clean may contribute to Alzheimer’s
Dr Molly Fox at Cambridge University and her colleagues, studied 192 countries and found that dementia was more common in countries with more sanitation, giving weight to the “hygiene hypothesis” that lack of exposure to germs, viruses and parasites weakens the immune system. The research adjusted for a number of confounding variables, although it is still possible that rich, western nations have better systems for diagnosing and reporting cases of Alzheimer’s.
Source: Prevention Information Evidence (P.I.E.) briefing 11th September 2013 from UK Health Forum
Their source: Daily Telegraph, 4th September 2013
Original source: Evolution, Medicine and Public Health

Champagne improves older rats’ brain health
Giulia Corona and colleagues at Reading University fed Champagne to older rats daily for six weeks and, compared to a control group, the lucky rats showed improved spatial working memory.  The researchers believe this is due to phenolic compounds found in champagne that can modulate signals from the hippocampus and cortex, and are hoping to translate these results to humans soon.
Source:, 5th September 2013
Original source: Antioxidants and Redox Signalling

Mothers’ poor diet increases risk of child mental health problems
Professor Felice Jacka, and colleagues at Deakin University in Australia and in Norway, studied 23,000 mothers and their children, funded by the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation.  It forms part of the continuing Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.  Detailed information was collected bout mothers’ diets during pregnancy and their children’s diets at 18 months and three years, and children’s symptoms of depression, anxiety, conduct disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder were assessed. The results showed that mothers who ate more junk food such as refined cereals, sugary drinks and salty snacks during pregnancy were more likely to have children with behavioural problems.  Moreover, children eating more unhealthy foods during their early years were also more likely to have behaviour problems.
Source:  IASO News Service, 29th August 2013
Their source: Food Navigator Asia, 21st August 2013
Original source: Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Bisphenol-A linked to behavioural problems in children
Bisphenol-A is commonly found in plastic packaging, including for food, and is also now used as a dental composite as it is thought to be safer than mercury-based amalgam.  However, data from the New England Children’s Amalgam Trial – looking at more than 500 children aged 6-10 – showed that the newer composite was worse than mercury-based ones in terms of learning impairment and behavioural problems.
Source:  Foodsmatter Newsletter no.93, 31st August 2013
Their source: GreenMedInfo
Original source: Pediatrics



September 2013

Omega-3 enriched baby milk may boost later intelligence
Professor John Colombo and colleagues from the University of Kansas, USA randomised 81 babies to be fed one of four formulas from birth to 12 months: three with varying levels of two long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (docosahexaeanoic acid and arachidonic acid), and one with no such ingredients.  Children were tested every six months from 18 months until six years of age using age-appropriate, standardised cognitive tests.  By the age of three differences in some, but not all, test scores began to emerge for those fed the enriched baby milk.
Source:, 19th August 2013
Original source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

More than four sugary, fizzy drinks a day may cause bad behaviour in young children 
Shakira Suglia and a team of researchers at Columbia University in New York, USA, studied 3,000 children and their mothers, as part of a larger project involving families at risk of poverty and family break-up.  They found a ‘strong and consistent’ link between reported bad behaviour – including violence, moodiness and difficulty concentrating – and those reporting drinking four of more soft drinks a day. The link persisted when other factors – such as sweets consumed, domestic violence, and mother’s mental health – were taken into account.
Source:  Daily Mail, 16th August 2013
Original source: Journal of Pediatrics

Lack of sleep could make us crave junk food
Professor Matthew Walker and colleagues from the University of California, Berkeley, USA used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of 23 healthy young adults after a good night’s sleep and after a sleepless night.  Participants were shown a series of 80 food images, ranging from healthy fruit and veg to unhealthy burgers and doughnuts.  Scans showed impaired activity in the sleep-deprived brains’ frontal lobes, which governs complex decision-making, while at the same time increased activity was found in the amygdala that respond to rewards.
Source:, 13th August 2013
Original source: Nature Communications 

High Blood glucose levels may increase risk of dementia
Professor Paul Crane and colleagues from the University of Washington, USA, studied yearly blood sugar levels of more than 2,000 people, from the Adult Changes in Thought study, for five years and then tracked their incidence of dementia. The risk of dementia was 18% higher for people (who were not diabetic) with 115 mg/dl of glucose compared to those with 100 mg/dl but there was no threshold value for lower glucose levels where risk levelled off. Diabetics, with glucose levels of 190 mg/dl had a dementia risk 40% higher than those with glucose levels of 160 mg/dl.
Source:, 12th August 2013
Original source: New England Journal of Medicine

Cocoa might prevent memory decline
Dr Farzaneh Sorond and colleagues at Harvard Medical School, USA studied 60 people with an average age of 73, with no dementia. Two cups of cocoa a day – irrespective of high or low flavanol content - improved blood flow to the brain in those who had problems in this area, as revealed by ultrasound tests.  Those participants whose blood flow improved also did better on memory tests.
Source:  BBC News 8th August
Original source: Neurology

Eating junk food while pregnant might increase child’s risk of drug abuse in later life
Dr Nicole Avena and colleagues from the University of Florida’s McKight Brain Institute, USA, looked at results from three studies, of around three months duration, involving three or four adult female rats and 10 to 12 offspring.  Researchers tested results comparing ordinary rat food, versus diets high in fat, sucrose or high fructose corn syrup.  Offspring of rats that had high fat diets while pregnant drank significantly more alcohol.  Offspring of rats nursed by rats on both the high sugar diets also drank more alcohol.  Offspring exposed to high sugar diets either before birth or during nursing become hyperactive when given low doses of amphetamine.
Source:, 8th August 2013
Original source: 2013 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association

Dietary therapy appears to ‘cure’ a child’s autism and epilepsy
A child with autism and epilepsy was not responding to other treatment so was put on a gluten-free, casein-free diet, after which she showed marked improvement.  After puberty, she developed seizures that did not respond to drugs, so ketogenic (high fat, low carbohydrate) elements were added to her existing diet, alongside anticonvulsants (though the high fat elements were medium chain triglycerides, not butter and cream, and more vegetables were included).  Over several years using this approach, autism declined from severe to non-autistic, she became seizure free, and obesity was also reduced.
Source:  Foodsmatter Newsletter no.91, 3rd August 2013
Their source: US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health
Original source: Journal of Child Neurology

NICE produces new evidence update on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
In July the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published an update of evidence on ADHD which includes food and food additives.  They would welcome feedback on this and comments can be sent to In the same month NICE also published a new quality standard
General information: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

Eating junk food while pregnant may affect babies’ brains
Jessica Gugusheff and colleagues from the FoodPlus research centre at the University of Adelaide, Australia investigated the effects of eating junk food with pregnant rats.  They found gene encoding for an opioid – enkephalin – was expressed at higher levels in the babies of rats who ate junk food than in those eating normal rat feed.  As a result, the baby rats are less sensitive to opioids and will have to eat more junk food to get the same ‘feel good’ response.
Source:, 31st July 2013
Original source: Annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior

Boost children’s IQ by breastfeeding until one year old
Dr Many Belfort and colleagues from Boston Children’s Hospital, USA found that, compared to bottle-fed children, those who had been breastfed for a year were likely to score four points higher in test of verbal IQ.  The children were tested when they were seven years old and the researchers recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and continued breastfeeding for at least one year.  It is thought that the docosahexaenoic acid content of breastmilk has benefits for babies’ brain development.
Source:  Metro newspaper, 30th July 2013
Original source: JAMA Pediatrics

Pre-diabetic state may also reduce brain function
Professor Louise Dye, professor of nutrition and behaviour at Leeds University, UK, recently reviewed 31 studies.  They showed that middle-aged women, who appeared to be into good health but had impaired glucose tolerance (a precursor to diabetes), had difficulties in 12 out of 27 cognitive tests.  Professor Dye considers that diet can potentially alleviate these cognitive problems, particularly high fibre foods with low glycaemic impact.
Source:, 18th July 2013
Original source: Institute of Food Technologists annual expo, USA


Thursday 3rd October, Leatherhead, UK
Feeding the mind: Development, performance and long term cognitive health
Details from Leatherhead Food Research

Wednesday 16th October, London
All Party Parliamentary Food and Health Forum conference: Healthy Eating and a Lifecourse Approach to Health.
The event features, inter alia, Nigel Hooper, Professor of Biochemistry at Leeds University talking about diet and Alzheimer’s disease: green tea, red wine & candidate biomarkers.
You need to be a member of the Forum to attend.  For details contact


July 2013

Foods like white bread may trigger cravings
Dr David Ludwig is director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Centre at Boston Children’s Hospital in the USA. He and his colleagues evaluated blood sugar levels, hunger and brain activity in 12 overweight and obese men after they had been given a milkshake with either a high glycemic index (GI) or a low GI.  Those drinking the high GI drink experienced spikes in activity in the nucleus accumbens area of the brain, which is known to be involved in addiction.   Processed food with a high GI, such as white bread, may have a similar effect.

Source:  Soil Association News 27th June 2013
Their source: Daily Telegraph, 26th June 2013
Original source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Low testosterone worsens brain inflammation caused by obesity
Dr Anusha Jayaraman (University of Southern California) and colleagues conducted research on mice in the labs of Professor Christian J Pike at the University’s Davis School of Gerontology.  Their results will be presented at the Endocrine Society’s 95th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.  They suggest that low testosterone and obesity interact to substantially worsen the brain inflammation that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but the damaged was eased in the group of mice that received testosterone therapy.

Source:  IASO News Service, 20th June 2013
Their source: Eurekalert 17th June 2012

Sweetener, manitol, may reduce risk of Parkinson’s disease
Professors Ehud Gazit and Daniel Segal, and colleagues from Tel Aviv University, Israel, tested the approved sweetener, manitol, on genetically altered fruit flies and then on genetically altered mice.  In both cases mannitol appeared to prevent the ‘clumping’ of the protein alpha-synuclein in the brain that is characteristic of Parkinson’s disease.

Source:, 18th June 2013
Original source: Journal of Biological Chemistry

Increased iron may reduce risk of Parkinson’s disease
Irene Pichler and colleagues from the research group EURAC undertook a meta-analysis of studies involving more than 130,000 people in Europe, North America and Australia.  They have concluded that higher levels of iron in the blood may help to reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, although the mechanism is not clear.

Source:, 17th June 2013
Original source: PLoS Med, 4th June 2013

Insulin resistance may inhibit ‘reward’ for sugar in brain
Professor Gene-jack Wang and colleagues of Stony Brook University, USA, gave a glucose drink to 10 healthy adults and 9 insulin-resistant adults, and also a drink artificially sweetened with sucralose.  After each drink they compared the release of dopamine in the brain using positron emission tomography.  Only after drinking the glucose drink did the researchers note lower dopamine release among the insulin-resistant participants.  They conclude that this deficiency in the brain’s ‘reward’ system could increase the desire to consume more sugar to overcompensate for this lack.

Source:, 12th June 2013
Original source: 2013 annual meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

Herbicide Roundup link to Parkinson’s rejected by Monsanto
Stephanie Seneff and colleagues at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, USA have reported that traces of the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) manufactured by Monsanto, are found in the main foods in the Western diet – sugar, maize, soya and wheat.  The researchers concluded that glyphosate may be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment, plausibly contributing to conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease and autism.  These conclusions have been vigorously contested by Monsanto.

Source:  Soil Association News 4th June 2013
Their source: Farmers Weekly, 4th June 2013
Original source: Entropy

Is organic food better for Parkinson’s?
An article summarises some research indicating that a diet comprising organic food might help prevent the onset of Parkinson’s Disease or help relieve the symptoms of sufferers. The research mentioned covers the links between exposure to pesticides and increased risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease.  As organic farming uses far fewer pesticides risks to farm workers and bystanders should be lower.  Similarly, people buying organic food can reduce their risk of eating pesticide residues. The paper also summarises recommendations for a healthy diet containing plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Source:  Soil Association News 30th May 2013
Their source: Medical Daily, 29th May 2013

Kellogg pays $4m to settle ‘improves attentiveness’ claim

Kellogg had claimed that its Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal was “clinically proven to improve children’s attentiveness by nearly 20%”.  A class action lawsuit was taken against the company in the USA and Kellogg had previously negotiated a settlement totalling almost $10.5m in April 2011 but this has now reduced to $4m.  Around half of this will be paid to any consumers who submit claims and remainder will cover legal and other costs and be distributed to the Consumers Union, Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  Kellogg continues to maintain that the company “has a long history of responsible advertising”.

Source:  IASO News Service, 30th May 2013
Their source: Food Navigator USA, 29th May 2013

Effect of high fructose corn syrup similar to cocaine
Professor Francesco Leri, from the University of Guelph, Canada fed high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to rats and found behaviour changes similar to that seen with class-A drugs such as cocaine.  HFCS is used in a wide range of food and drink products not only to sweeten them but also improve the appearance of baked goods.  Professor Leri considers that these results, added to previous research, provide “convincing neurobiological and behavioural evidence indicating that addiction to food is possible”.
Source:  The Scotsman, 23rd May 2013

Obesity maintained by changes in brain biochemistry
Isin Cakir and Nicole Cyr and colleagues at Brown University and Lifespan, USA fed rats a high calorie diet and others normal diet for 12 weeks.  The overfed rats became obese and further research on hormone levels and brain cells found changes in brain chemistry – neuropeptides - that lead to failure to curb appetite or encourage calories to be burnt.  This helps to perpetuate obesity, but researchers also found that, in rats, another chemical could reverse this process.

Source:  IASO News Service, 23rd May 2013
Their source: Eurekalert, 16th May 2013
Original source: Journal of Biological Chemistry

Iodine deficiency may lower children’s IQ
Dr Sarah Bath and colleagues at Surrey and Bristol Universities looked at iodine levels in urine samples taken from 1,000 pregnant women in south-west England. They found that mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy could lead to lower IQs among eight year olds and lower reading scores in nine year olds if their mothers had had too little iodine while pregnant. Milk, yoghurt and fish are good sources of iodine, but seaweed supplements were not recommended, since they may provide too much iodine.

Source:  Soil Association News 22nd May 2013
Their source: BBC News 22nd May 2013
Original source: The Lancet

Omega-3 may reduce damage to brain from junk food
Dr Lucy Pickavance and colleagues from the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease at the University of Liverpool, UK reviewed data from 185 research papers.  On this basis they suggest that omega-3 fats may not have a direct effect on the brain but, instead, may delay or reduce the negative impact of refined sugar and saturated fat.

Source:, 17th May 2013
Original source: British Journal of Nutrition

Dark chocolate can enhance mood but not cognition
Researchers at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, funded by confectionary company Barry Callebaut, have studied 72 healthy men and women aged 40-65.  In a randomized, double-blind trial, participants consumed a chocolate drink with 500mg, 250mg or no flavanols for 30 days.   The group consuming the most flavanols reported being more calm and content but no changes in cognition were found.

Source:, 15th May 2013
Original source: Journal of Psychopharmacology, volume27,  no5

Avoid saturated fat, meat and dairy and increase omega-3 for better memory
Dr Georgios Tsivgoulis and colleagues from both the University of Alamba, Birmingham USA and the University of Athens, Greece looked at data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study.  Dietary information was reviewed from almost 17,500 people aged, on average, 64 (and from African-American and Caucasian backgrounds).  Participants were measured for memory and thinking abilities over four years and the research found that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a 19% lower risk of thinking and memory problems in healthy people.

Source:, 13th May 2013
Original source: Neurology, volume 80, no18

Rise in obesity poses ‘dementia time bomb’
Data presented by the UK Health Forum (formerly the National Heart Forum in the UK) at the European Congress on Obesity show that if obesity rates in the UK stay the same, or increase to 46% of men and 31% of women by 2050, which has been predicted by some groups, then rates of dementia would go from 4,894 cases in every 100,000 people over 65 to 6,662 cases in every 100,000 people over 65.  One study of 8,500 Swedish twins showed that those with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 were almost four times as likely to develop dementia as those with a normal BMI.  Those with a BMI between 25 and 30 were 71% more likely to develop dementia.

Source: BBC website, 12th May 2013
Original source: European Congress on Obesity

Peppers might reduce risk of Parkinson’s
Dr Searles Nielsen and colleagues from the University of Washington, Seattle USA studied more than 1,100 people and found that peole who eat vegetables from the Solanaceae family – such a peppers, tomatoes, aubergines and potatoes – were 30% less likely to develop Parkinson’s Disease.  The researchers believe this may be linked to the small amounts of nicotine in these vegetables might be responsible for the effect.

Source: Metro Newspaper, 10th May 2013
Original source: Not given

A ‘full English’ breakfast makes people sleepy
Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine, Pennsylvania, USA have published study results that indicate high calorie foods – such as found in a full English breakfast of fried bacon, eggs, sausages and so on – increased daytime sleepiness.  Conversely, the researchers found that foods high in carbohydrates – such as potatoes, pasta and dry fruit – could boost alertness.

Source: Metro Newspaper, 9th May 2013
Original source: Not given


May 2013

Impact of caffeine on children’s health
The USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FSA) has said it will re-examine the health effects of caffeine on children following the launch, by Wrigley (Mars) of a new caffeinated gum – Alert Energy Caffeine Gum – containing 40mg of caffeine per piece.  The statement was issued by Michael Taylor, the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine and noted that there are now far more caffeinated foods and drinks available than when the FDA approved adding caffeine in the 1950s.  The Centre for Science in the Public Interest commented that too much caffeine can cause anxiety, restlessness, irritability and insomnia.

Source:, 2nd May 2013

Mediterranean diet may reduce memory loss
Dr Georgios Tsivgoulis and researchers from the University of Alabama studied data on a national sample of 17,478 Americans with an average age of 64, who had taken part in a stroke study. They reviewed data to assess how much their eating habits resembled a Mediterranen diet – for example containing oily fish and low amounts of red meat and dairy products - and tested their thinking and memory skills over four years. Seven per cent of participants had impaired cognitive functioning, but the risk was almost a fifth lower in those whose diets were closest to those of southern Europeans. However, a link was not found among the 17 per cent who had diabetes.
Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 2nd May 2013
Their source:  The Daily Telegraph, 2nd May 2013
Original source: Neurology Journal

Fruit and veg make us happy?
Economists and public health researchers from the UK’s University of Warwick and the USA’s Dartmouth University studied 80,000 people in Britain.  They found mental well-being appeared to rise with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables consumed, with well-being peaking at seven portions a day.
Source:  Choice. Magazine of the Australian consumers association, April 2013
Original source:  Not given

Is food addictive?
A special issue of Biological Psychiatry has been guest edited by Dr Dana Small and Dr Ralph Dileone from the Yale School of Medicine in the USA to take an in-depth look at the idea of food as an addiction.  Reviews and research papers cover topics such as brain reward circuitry, obesity and dopamine, impulsivity and self-control, reward-driven feeding and the effects of a high-fat diet.
Source:, 25th April 2013
Original source:  Biological Psychiatry, April 2013

Smell of beer makes us happy
A group of researchers led by David Karen of Indiana University, USA gave tiny amounts of beer to 49 adult men and tracked changes in their brain chemistry with a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner, which measures levels of various molecules in the brain.  The amount of dopamine release per person was not random. People who had a family history of alcoholism (as reported on a survey) showed notably higher dopamine levels after tasting beer, compared to others.
Source:  Grist, 24th April 2013
Original source:  Neuropsychopharmacology, April 2013

Berries may protect brain functioning, according to rat study
Dr Shibu Poulose and researchers from Tufts University and Maryland University in the USA fed rats with a diet containing blueberries and strawberries for two months, and compared them with a control group of rats.  The rats were exposed to radiation – a model for accelerated aging – and those fed on berries had significant protection against the radiation, compared to the controls.  It is thought that the phytonutrients in the berries help the brain clear accumulated toxic substances.  A research team, led by Dr Barbara Shukitt-Hale, is now planning a similar study in people aged between 60 and 75 years.
Source:, 22nd April 2013
Original source:  Experimental Biology conference, April 2013

‘No evidence’ that drugs, vitamins or supplements can prevent cognitive decline
Dr Raza Naqvi and a team from the University of Toronto in Canada have reviewed 32 published randomised clinical trials involving 25,000 healthy older adults, They found no strong evidence that herbal products, vitamins, supplements or pharmaceuticals help tackle cognitive decline.
Source:, 22nd April 2013
Original source:  Canadian Medical Association Journal, April 2013

Chocolate over-consumption may be linked to Parkinson’s Disease
Anupom Borah and fellow researchers at Assam University in India reviewed a number of rodent studies that found β-phenethylamine (β-PEA) - that occurs naturally in cocoa beans, wine and cheese - may be a cause of Parkinson’s Disease.  One study found that 0.63 to 1.25mg per day of β-PEA could cause Parkinson’s symptoms in adult mice.  This is about the amount of β-PEA a person would get from eating 100g of chocolate.  However, other components in chocolate, such as polyphenols, may protect against Parkinson’s, and studies on people, as well as rodents are needed.
Source:, 11th April 2013
Original source:  Neuroscience Bulletin, March 2013

Rosemary helps you remember
Dr Mark Moss, Jemma McCready and a team of psychologists at Northumbria University tested the effects of essential oils from rosemary on 66 people who were randomly allocated a rosemary-scented room, or a room with no scent.  Each set of participants completed a number of tests and a questionnaire to assess their mood, and blood samples were taken and tested for 1,8 cineole (found in rosemary oil).  Blood levels of 1,8 cineole were higher in those in the rosemary scented room, and they also scored 60-75% higher than the controls on the number of tasks they could perform and the speed they did them.
Source: Daily Mail, 9th April 2013.  Why a whiff of rosemary DOES help you remember. Jenny Hope.
Original source: British Psychology Society conference in Harrogate, 9th April 2013

Healthy Minds research initiative
UK Biobank, a major research programme involving 500,000 volunteers, is launching its Healthy Minds initiative on cognitive and emotional health in Spring 2013. Participants will complete a series of short cognitive tests online, designed to understand the likely causes of dementia. UK Biobank intends to repeat these tests periodically so that it can find out why some people’s cognitive health changes more than other people’s.
Source: UK Biobank 3rd annual newsletter

Eating junk food makes a bad mood worse
Dr Kristin Heron and Professor Joshua Smith, at Penn State University in the USA, gave hand-held computers to 131 women with unhealthy diets who were concerned about their body shape and weight.  The study design was intended to study people in real-life situations and several times a day the computers would prompt the participants to answer questions about their mood and eating behaviour. If the women in the study were already in a bad mood the research found that they felt worse after eating junk food.  Women who were in a good mood did not experience any change of mood after they ate junk food.
Source:, 21st March
Original source:  American Psychosomatic Society conference


8th May closing date to register for NICE committee meeting on Depression in children and young people
To be a public observer at this meeting you need to register via this webpage  You will not be able to participate in the meeting, only listen to proceedings.  More information is available from Sarah Gage (

12-13th July - Growing Towards Recovery
The first national conference on greencare and mental health at Commonwork, Bore Place, Near Sevenoaks, Kent TN8 7AR. Chaired by Bernadette Wren from The Tavistock and Portman Fund NHS Foundation Trust and Beren Aldridge from Growing Well and Chair of Care Farming UK. For more details contact Becky Baldock  and 01743 463255 and see the website


January 2013

Is there a link between fat intake and ADHD?
Based on animal studies, researchers have concluded that 'overnutrition due to fats may be central to childhood psychological perturbations such as anxiety and ADHD'
Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, Weekly News Brief, 21st February 2013 
Their source: 11th February 2013

Protein restricted foods could slow progress of Alzheimer’s
Professor Valter Longo and colleagues at the University of Southern California, USA, studied mice with advanced Alzheimer’s for four weeks.  They found that mice given a protein-restricted diet, supplemented with specific amino acids every other week, had improved cognitive abilities compared to similar mice not on this special diet.  The team are planning research to see if a similar approach will also work with humans.
Source:, 18th February 2013 
Original source:  Aging Cell

Role of fish oils in children’s IQ
An examination of existing research looking at measures that increased children’s intelligence has found that supplementing infants with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids does have a positive impact on children’s IQ.  The study also identified three other effective, non-diet based ways to improve children’s intelligence - enrolling children in early education, reading to children in an interactive manner, and sending children to preschool.

This is helpful because the Marine Conservation Society recently downgraded mackerel (a good source of fish oils) from the ‘fish to eat’ list to the ‘fish that should only be eaten occasionally’ category.  The is the result of overfishing of the stock and the subsequent suspension of the north east Atlantic stock’s Marine Stewardship Council sustainable fishery certification. The MCS lists herring and sardine as good alternatives to mackerel, for the time being at least.
Source: Food Climate Research Network, 6th February 2013  
Original source: Protzko, J., Aronson, J., Blair, C. (2012). How to Make a Young Child Smarter: Evidence From the Database of Raising Intelligence. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8, 1, 25-40. DOI: 10.1177/1745691612462585.

Young people eating lots of fruit and veg are happier
Dr Tamlin Conner and her team at the University of Otago, New Zealand, studied 281 people, with an average age of 20, who completed an internet-based daily food dairy for 21 consecutive days.  The results showed a strong link between higher fruit and vegetable consumption – about 7 or 8 servings - and feeling calmer, happier and more energetic than normal.  These positive moods also appeared to continue to the day following eating more fruit and veg, suggesting a causal link.
Source:, 25th January 2013 
Original source:  Journal of Health Psychology

Optimists have higher levels of carotenoids in their blood
Julia Boehm, Professor Andrew Oswald and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health in the USA studied almost 1,000 American men and women aged 25 to 74.  Participants completed questionnaires and provided blood samples, which were analysed for nine different antioxidants, including carotenoids such as beta-carotene and vitamin E.  Those who were more optimistic had up to 13% more carotenoids in their blood and researchers concluded that those who ate two or fewer servings of fruit and vegetables a day were significantly less optimistic than people who ate three or more portions.  Fruit and vegetables that are orange or deep green – such as carrots and leafy veg – are usually rich sources of carotenoids.
Source:  Today’s News from the Soil Association, 18th January 2013 
Their source:  MailOnline, 18th January 2013 here 
Original source: Psychosomatic Medicine

Researchers claim milk drinkers win Nobel Prizes
Researchers from Gloucester Royal Hospital have built on the research, published in 2012 by Franz Messerli, which showed a correlation between higher chocolate consumption and winning Nobel prizes.  Looking at data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (sic) on milk consumption per person in 22 countries, they found that Sweden, with the highest per capital milk consumption of 340kg per year, produced 22 Nobel laureates per 10m population.  China, with 25kg of milk consumed per person per year, has not yet produced a Nobel Prize winner.  The researchers suggest a plausible mechanism via vitamin D in milk, and also suggest boosting your chances of winning a Nobel Prize by drinking hot chocolate…
Source:, 15th January 2013 
Original source:  Letter in Practical Neurology

Western diet can cause brain impairment and neurodegenerative conditions
Heather Francis and colleagues at Macquarie University, Australia, have reviewed 30 years of evidence from animal and human studies, alongside epidemiological data.  They have concluded that there is a causal link between diets high in saturated fat and sugar and changes to specific brain regions that affect cognitive abilities (memory, attention and inhibition) and reward processes.  They are also concerned that these changes may not be reversible.
Source:, 11th January 2013 
Original source: Appetite

Carbonated drinks linked to depression (coffee may lower risk)
Dr Honglei Chen and colleagues from the US National Institutes of Health followed more than 250,000 people for a decade and found that people who drank more than four cans of soda (sweetened, fizzy drinks) per day were 30% more likely to develop depression than those who drank no soda.  People who drank “diet” soda (artificially sweetened) were at higher risk than those drinking “regular” versions.  Conversely, people who drank four cups of coffee a day had around 10% lower risk of developing depression than those who drank no coffee.
Source:, 9th January 2013 
Original source: American Academy of Neurology’s 65th Annual Meeting

Researchers call for diet and depression studies modelled on CVD research
Almudena Sanchez-Villegas and Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, writing an opinion piece, have argued for large scale randomised primary prevention trials to improve the quality of the evidence on the links between diet and depression.  Although difficult to undertake, the authors note research such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hyptertension (DASH) study, as a suitable model.  They also note that, although there is evidence showing that fast food can increase the risk of depression and the Mediterranean diet can reduce it, most of the studies do not show causality.  They consider that the link may well be causal, not least because metabolic syndrome, obesity and cardiovascular disease share common mechanisms with depression, and patients who are depressed have a higher prevalence of these diseases.
Source:, 4th January 2013 
Original source: BMC Medicine


Series of five monthly seminars on mental health for those working with young people
The first seminar is on Tuesday 12th March, and all in the series will be facilitated by Paula Conway.  Paula is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, and Manager of Grow2Grow at Commonwork, a recovery project for young people.
All 5 seminars run on Tuesdays from 5-6.30pm at Commonwork, Bore Place TN7 8AR, with refreshments provided. The fee is £75 for the series – please book and pay in advance.
Full details from here

NICE Consultation on Quality Standards Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
This consultation will run from 21st February until 21st March, and details are here here. You have to be registered as a stakeholder here here before you can comment.

The NICE Depression in children and young people Quality Standard consultation will run from Wednesday 3rd April to Wednesday 1st May.

To get on the list to be notified about NICE consultations contact:

Quality Standards Team
Health and Social care Directorate
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
Level 1A, City Tower
Piccadilly Plaza
Manchester M1 4BD 
Tel: 44 (0)161 870 3269

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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