Research Round Up: March 2020

This month at Nuzest HQ has been all about digestive health and remote wellness. We have explored how the digestive system works, the digestibility of pea protein, ways to keep healthy when travelling or living and working in rural areas, as well as sharing our favourite fitness apps of 2020.

We also interviewed some incredible health professionals, Nutritionist Casey-Lee Lyons on her tips for getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, and Specialist Paediatric Dietitian Jessica Gust on her advice for parents of picky eaters.

Following these trends, we have decided to dig a little further into better understanding the interactions between dietary components and the gut microbiota, how yoga breathing practices could be used to enhance the wellbeing of adolescence and the potential risks of childhood picky eating should it persist into adulthood.

On the distinct interactions between the gut microbiota and dietary amino acids

The gastrointestinal tract (GIT) of humans and animals is host to a large and complex community of microorganisms (the microbiota) that significantly influence host nutrition and health. On top of the wealth of knowledge and information available regarding gut health, new molecular technologies and concepts have revealed a distinct interaction between the gut microbiota and dietary amino acids.

One review published in the Current Protein & Peptide Science journal, explains the relationship between the metabolism and utilisation of amino acids in the digestive tract and the host’s resident bacteria. It has been discovered that the interactions between the two may play a significant role in host nutrition and health, as well as determine the efficiency of amino acid supplementation.

The review, which summarises the current literature on the interactions between dietary amino acids and gut microbiota, explains that the by-products of amino acid digestion influence various pathways in the body that play a part in regulating the immune system and modulate gene expression of bacteria, leading to the promotion of host nutrition and health.

Abdallah A, Elemba E, Zhong Q, et al. Gastrointestinal interaction between dietary amino acids and gut microbiota: with special emphasis on host nutrition. Curr Protein Pept Sci 2020. DOI: 10.2174/1389203721666200212095503

Yoga breathing practices proven effective in encouraging healthy coping strategies and resilience among adolescents

Today’s “typical child” is often described as stressed out, under nourished and sedentary, which isn’t ideal, particularly during the time of adolescence, which is a vital period for the development of mental health.

And while several types of school-based stress management and wellness programs have been established with the purpose of encouraging healthy coping strategies and resilience among adolescence, no studies had been completed amongst this age group assessing the long-term impact of a simple and highly regarded yoga breathing practice known for its stress-relieving capacity, Bhramari pranayama (Bhr. P).

Bhr. P has been previously studied in adults and has been shown to reduce the cardiovascular reactivity to stress by inducing parasympathetic predominance and cortico-hypothalamo-medullary inhibition. Reduction of heart rate, blood pressure and autonomic function were observed after just five minutes of yoga breathing practice in healthy volunteers. Furthermore, enhanced inhibitory response and cognitive control were noted among healthy individuals following 10 minutes of yoga breathing practice. However, no such studies had yet been performed on adolescents.

In the first randomised controlled trial of its kind, one study published in Integrative Medicine Research, examined the effects of Bhr. P on 520 healthy adolescents (aged 13-18 years old) over a six-month period. The Bhr. P  was practiced for five, seven-minute cycles, five days a week for the duration of the six months in the experiment group (n=260) while the control group (n=260) continued with their daily routine without interruption.

Results of the study, determined by ECG recordings, found a positive shift in cardiac autonomic modulation and a significant improvement towards parasympathetic predominance, which are both markers of alleviating stress. The authors concluded that the study highlights the usefulness of a simple yoga breathing technique to improve the autonomic function of adolescent children.

Kuppusamy M, Kamaldeen D, Pitani R, et al. Effects of yoga breathing practice on heart rate variability in healthy adolescents: a randomized controlled trial. Integr Med Res 2020;9(1):28-32.

The problem with childhood picky eating persisting into adulthood

Picky eating, defined as the avoidance or rejection of food resulting in the inadequate consumption of a variety of foods, is common among children. And while parents are often concerned about their children’s picky eating, evidence is mixed regarding whether the impacts of picky eating on children are clinically meaningful. While most studies have focused on the nutritional impacts and growth during childhood of picky eating, few have examined the adult consequences of being a picky eater during childhood.

In a study published in Public Health Nutrition, the outcome of being a picky eater in childhood lead to some interesting, but not surprising outcomes in childhood. While there were no associations observed between being a picky eater in childhood and young adults’ weight status, or the use of weight-control strategies or report of binge eating, it was determined that adult counterparts of childhood picky eaters have lower intakes of fruit, vegetables and whole grains, and more frequently consume snack foods, sugar-sweetened beverages and foods from fast-food chains.

The study found that the eating habits of childhood picky eaters perpetuated into adulthood, where dietary patterns were still guided by reduced dietary variety and a higher intake of sweet foods. Essentially these are highly palatable foods of low nutritional quality.

These eating characteristics can contribute to chronic conditions including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, even in the absence of a higher weight status. Therefore, it’s important that parents of picky eaters do not encourage their children to eat foods of low nutritional quality as a means to simply eat enough (which can be common practice of parents to ensure their child is consuming sufficient energy), and that if their child’s problems with eating persist or worsen, parents and children who are picky eaters may benefit from medical, dietetic, paediatric or psychological intervention.

Pesch ME, Bauer KW, Christoph MJ, et al. Young adult nutrition and weight correlates of picky eating during childhood. Public Health Nut 2019:1-9.

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