Healthy Nutrition and Physical Health
Scientific research and evidence have shown that your dietary intake can increase or reduce your risk for developing chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and even some forms of cancer. These chronic diseases are called “lifestyle diseases” because they come primarily from poor and habitual lifestyle choices such as high consumption of processed foods, bad fats, too much alcohol and nicotine, and inadequate vegetables and fruits.
Good choices in food and supplement intake, to the contrary, improve everyday health as well as longevity.
EUFIC – The European Food Information Council, a non-profit organisation, was founded in 1995, and advocates for science-based information on food and health. Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG) have been established by many countries throughout Europe, tailored to national culture, food preferences, and food availability.
“Common recommendations include eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates, and choosing foods which are lower in saturated fat, salt and sugar. The use of food groups, as in food pyramids and circles, ensures the inclusion of all basic foods and gives positive messages about what we should be eating as well as some qualifying information to help us avoid eating too much of certain foods. Although the details may vary – FBDG have been developed by different bodies at different times and for use in different cultures – there are many similarities between all the European FBDG.”
Food-Based Dietary Guidelines
Virtually all European Food-Based Dietary Guidelines include similar categories in a visual layout for easy understanding. An example from Greece: The Mediterranean Diet food pyramid.
An example from Greece: The Mediterranean Diet food pyramid.
- “Vegetables: Eat a wide variety of green and leafy vegetables. Limited intake of potatoes is recommended, because they are full of rapidly digested starch, which has the same roller-coaster effect on blood sugar as refined grains and sweets. In the short-term, these surges in blood sugar and insulin lead to hunger and overeating, and in the long term, to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic disorders.
- Fruits: Choose a color variety of fruits every day.
- Whole Grains: Consume whole grains, (oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice). Processed grains, like potatoes, are high in starch and create sugar spikes in the blood stream, which are detrimental to health.
- Proteins: Focus on chicken, fish, nuts and beans, and non-animal proteins. Limit red meat and avoid processed meats, since eating even small quantities of these on a regular basis raises the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and weight gain.
- Healthy Oils: Limit butter and avoid trans fat. Use olive, canola, and other plant oils in cooking, on salads, and at the table, since these healthy fats reduce harmful cholesterol and are good for the heart.
- Water: Drink water, tea, or coffee (with little or no sugar). Limit milk and dairy (1-2 servings per day) and juice (1 small glass a day) and avoid sugary drinks.
Chronic Disease in Europe
While life expectancy in Europe has increased substantially since the late 1970’s, substantial years of that expectancy are lived in poor health. The biggest killer in Europe is chronic disease. “85% of deaths in the EU are due to chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, and mental illness. Cancer from all causes is the predominant cause of death before the age of 65, whereas cardiovascular disease is the predominant cause of death after age 65.” Further, over half of the causes of premature death discussed in the European Cohort Consortium (above) are attributed to six lifestyle factors, in descending order:
- tobacco smoking,
- poor diet,
- high waist-to-hip ratio,
- high blood pressure,
- physical inactivity or low activity, and
- high alcohol use (more than two drinks per day.)
The Mediterranean Diet – What is It?
Given that poor diet is the second highest cause for premature death from chronic disease, we can’t help mentioning that the Mediterranean Diet has been shown to reduce significantly the levels of chronic disease based upon two thousand studies, 75% of which have been performed since 2005. The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the eating habits of Greece, southern Italy, Spain, Morocco, Cypress, and Croatia, where less animal fat is consumed, body-mass index is lower, there is more physical activity, and moderate amounts of smoking and alcohol consumption. The Mediterranean diet, as developed from these countries, emphasizes:
- Fresh, non-starchy produce – fruits and vegetables
- Healthy, mono-saturated plant fats – olives, olive oil, avocado – and their micronutrient polyphenols
- Seeds, nuts and legumes as sources of fiber and protein
- Fish and eggs as proteins
- Moderate amounts of cultured dairy for protein, easy digestion and beneficial bacteria
- Whole and sprouted grains for healthy carbohydrates and fats
- Herbs and spices for anti-oxidants, and anti-inflammation properties
New Brain Nutrition will share the results of ongoing clinical trials on the effect of the Mediterranean and restriction elimination diets in a variety of individuals in different age groups, from children to senior citizens.
Mental Health Treatments with Psychiatric Drugs vs Nutrition
Mental Health Treatments and Medicines – Questionable Results
If we accept that nutrition has a direct effect on physical health, it stands to reason that nutrition has an effect on mental health is well. Yet insufficient studies have been done in this area that describe the working mechanisms between nutrition, supplementation, and mental health.
The primary model for treating mental health issues and disorders is psychopharmacology and various forms of psychotherapy. Nutrition and diet are considered insignificant in their effects. Unfortunately, the long-term success rate of medications (tranquilizers, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics) and therapy is not ideal. A series of studies questions the long-term efficacies of medications and therapies for the treatment of mental disorders.
- Research has shown that recovery and relapse rates show no improvement over those rates experienced 50 years prior to the development of these medicines.
- In an eight year follow-up study, results found that children treated for ADHD with medications showed significant initial improvement in symptoms but had significant impairments later in adolescence, whether the issue was lack of medication adherence, or need for medication adjustments. Unfortunately, results showed that treated children do worse than children who were never treated.
- Children treated with anti-depressants are three times more likely to develop bipolar disorder than children who did not receive the medication.
- In randomized trials, where schizophrenic patients were a) kept on their medications, b) had their medications reduced, or c) had medications eliminated, results showed that those who stayed on their anti-psychotics were less likely to recover from the disorder than those who reduced or eliminated the medication.
Nutrient Studies and Mental Health – Promising New Frontier
We are at the beginning of the field of nutritional psychiatry, which has the possibility of being a significant new direction in mental health care. Numerous studies have revealed the powerful connection between nutrition and mental health, and have supported the concept of the “gut-brain axis”, by which the brain and gut perform two-way communication. New Brain Nutrition is at the forefront of this research, and intends to conduct numerous research studies and clinical trials to further development in this burgeoning field. Some examples of previous and recent research:
- A 2014 randomized controlled trial showed preliminary evidence of the efficacy of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals, without omega fatty acids) in the treatment of ADHD symptoms in adults. In the micronutrient group, responses were double those in the placebo group, with more of the participants who presented with depression and were randomized to the micronutrients, going into remission as compared to the placebo group. Spouses of those randomized to micronutrients also noted greater improvement in ADHD symptoms of the participants relative to spouses of those randomized to placebo. Those who received the micronutrients reported their social relationships were less impairing than those who were on placebo. One year later, those who stayed on micronutrients maintained their positive results, while those who went off the micronutrients or switched to medications fared worse. Note: Dosing was multiples higher and breadth of nutrients was wider than those obtainable in store bought vitamins. Additionally, this study does not show for whom this treatment may be effective. More studies are needed.
- Following the earthquake in Christchurch New Zealand, rates of probable PTSD were reduced from 65% down to 19% with micronutrient supplementation, with no change in those not taking the nutrients.
- Severity of bipolar symptoms was reduced by greater than 50% in 46% of subjects who took micronutrients.
- The 2014 study in #1 above has now been partially replicated in children with ADHD. Although the effects of the micronutrients on ADHD were limited to improved attention, it was noteworthy that those children taking the micronutrients showed a greater reduction in aggression and improved ability to regulate emotions relative to those children randomized to the placebo. They were also noted to show improved overall functioning. The response rates in the children was extremely comparable to the response rates observed in the adults.
What are Macronutrients? What are Micronutrients?
Macronutrients are those nutritional items we consume in relatively large amounts. They fall into three major categories: fats, protein, and carbohydrates.
Consumption of healthy amounts and healthy types of these three are important to our overall health. Saturated fats, for example, are bad for health and need to be taken in minimally. There are many different kinds of protein, from beef (relatively high in fat) to fish (lower in fat), to plant-based proteins (legumes, which have little to no fat). There are carbohydrates from processed grains which are not as nutritious as whole grain carbohydrates. Our health depends partially on the types of macronutrients we consume.
Micronutrients, by contrast, are those vitamins and minerals that are also required for good health, but are best consumed in measured quantities. That’s why we buy formulations with specific numbers of milligrams based on recommended dosages.
Vitamins fall into two categories: water soluble (dissolvable in water within our bodies), and fat soluble (absorbed into our body and stored in fat for later use).
Water Soluble Vitamins
- Vitamin B1 – Thiamin
- Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin
- Niacin – Nicotinamide, Nicotinic Acid
- Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine, Pyridoxal, Pyridoxamine
- Vitamin B12 – Cobalamin
- Vitamin C – Ascorbic Acid
Fat Soluble Vitamins
- Vitamin A – Retinol, Retinal, Retinoic Acid, Provitamin A – Carotenoids
- Vitamin D – Cholecalciferol
- Vitamin E – Tocopherol
- Vitamin K – Phylloquinone, Menaquinones
Minerals as well fall into two categories: Major minerals, and Trace minerals. We need more than 100mg of major minerals each day. We need less than 100mg per day of trace minerals. Each of them however is important.
In our New Brain Nutrition research studies, we will be testing vitamin and mineral supplementation to determine what levels are therapeutic, and learning what types of individuals need specific levels of supplementation.
 EUFIC – The European Food Information Council. https://www.eufic.org/en/who-we-are/who-we-are-eufic. Accessed May 20, 2018.
 “Food-based dietary guidelines in Europe”, October 1, 2009. EUFIC. https://www.eufic.org/en/healthy-living/article/food-based-dietary-guidelines-in-europe.; Accessed online May 20, 2018
 Brennan, P., Perola, M., van Ommen, G.-J., Riboli, E., & On behalf of the European Cohort Consortium. (2017). Chronic disease research in Europe and the need for integrated population cohorts. European Journal of Epidemiology, 32(9), 741–749. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-017-0315-2
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