Research Roundup: February 2020

Last month we published the first in our series of research roundups, as part of our commitment to bringing you the latest highlights from the world of health and nutrition science.

This month at Nuzest HQ has been all about plant-based diets, brain health and getting our kids prepped for another great year at school. We’ve discussed how best to transition to a plant-based diet, provided tips on how to reduce the risks of age-related cognitive decline, as well as explored ways to nutritionally support kids’ brain health and cognition.

Following these trends, we decided to dig a little further into better understanding how to support healthy nutritional status when following a plant-based protocol, highlighted a key herbal remedy that is now being considered for front-line Alzheimer’s treatment, as well as refreshed on the most important aspects of brain health in children and adolescents.

Visual image of a variety of vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids

How taking vegan omegas alongside powdered fruit extracts can improve micronutrient status

The results published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition of a controlled, randomised, open-labelled, parallel-grouped, clinical trial has found that supplementing with a plant-based fatty acid supplement can increase serum concentrations of specific vitamins and carotenoids.

The study, conducted on 68 healthy subjects aged 20-65, trialled supplementation of vegan omega-3 fatty acids at doses of 0.5g/day and 1g/day with the combined ingestion of a fruit, vegetable and berry juice powder concentrate.

Data from the results demonstrated a “complementing effect” where the intake of just 0.5g/day for eight weeks improved the absorption of several vitamins and carotenoids parallel to the fatty acids. Notable mentions include the increase in serum levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene.

Authors of the study recommend this as a safe and effective means to enhance nutrient status as the improvements were seen without any effects on hepatic, kidney and thyroid function and without any impact on blood lipids.

Dams S, Holasek S, Tsiountsioura M, et al. Effects of a plant-based fatty acid supplement and a powdered fruit, vegetable and berry juice concentrate on omega-3-indices and serum micronutrient concentrations in healthy subjects. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2020. PMID: 32064970.

Vegan omegas are an important part of a plant-based diet. For our top tips on ensuring you are still getting all of your omega-3 fatty acids, check out our guide on our easy plant-based food swaps.

A picture of a brahmi plant with a flower

Brahmi concluded to be a lead formulation for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders

Bacopa monnieri, commonly known as brahmi, is a nootropic ayurvedic herb that has historically been associated with the treatment of neurological disorders, dating back to ancient times. One recent review has uncovered the validity and scientific reasoning behind the use of this herb for such treatment, illuminating the mechanisms of action behind brahmi’s brain-centric benefits.

Neurodegeneration is characterised by the gradual loss of neurons, leading to the impairment of memory, locomotion and cognition. There are two key proteins that are involved in the progression of neuronal dysfunctions resulting in neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid-β and tau. Essentially these proteins lead to greater oxidative stress on the body, and increase neuroinflammation and neurotoxicity, which lead to dementia and behavioural deficits. While there are numerous natural and synthetic approaches to neurological disorders available, one review in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, set out to determine whether brahmi could be considered as one of those treatment options in a bid to help manage the worldwide increased rate of Alzheimer’s disease.

Brahmi extract, which is comprised of various bioactive components such as bacoside A, bacoside B, bacosaponins and betullinic acid, have known significant roles in neuroprotection. The review concluded that together, they inhibit amyloid-β and tau, and exhibit antioxidant and neuroprotective activity, as well as improve aspects of cognition and learning behaviour. As a result, the overall studies reviewed concluded that brahmi can be used as a viable and primary consideration for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other neurological disorders.

Dubey T, Chinnathambi S. Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri): an ayurvedic herb against the Alzheimer’s disease. Arch Biochem Biophys 2019;676:108153.

The ageing population has people questioning now, more than ever before, how they can prevent cognitive decline. Found out what Clinical Nutritionist and Researcher, Cliff Harvey, suggests here.

An image of a kid enjoying a big piece of watermelon

Healthy diet, physical activity and adequate sleep are yet again confirmed to be important for brain health in children and adolescents

In a recent study published in the International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health, it was found, yet again, that eating well and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are crucial elements to the brain health of children and adolescents.

The review which set out to provide an overview of the association between health behaviours and cognition and academic achievement in children and adolescents under 18 years of age with a special reference to diet quality, found that integrating a healthy diet with a physically active lifestyle and adequate sleep, provide the optimal circumstances for brain development and learning.

The study highlighted that dietary patterns with a low consumption of fish, fruits and vegetables, and a high intake of fast food, processed meats and soft drinks, have been linked to poor cognition and academic achievement. The authors also mentioned that there are limited studies available on particular aspects of dietary intakes that could be studied for greater understanding of diets on brain health, such as the high intake of saturated fat and red meat, as well as the low intake of fibre and high-fibre grain products.

While the results of the study are not shocking, having studies reconfirm what we already know is a great way to confirm that the health behaviours you are incorporating into your life, and the lives of your children, are scientifically validated as being beneficial. Furthermore, it’s always nice to see that there are easy and achievable ways to bring impactful health behaviours into the home.

Naveed S, Lakka T, Haapala EA. An overview on the associations between health behaviors and brain health in children and adolescents with special reference to diet quality. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2020;17(3).

We’ve got the most important brain-boosting elements of kids nutrition covered in this article by our resident Naturopath, Stephanie Sarulidis. On ways to help look after your kids while they’re at school, check out our article on how to pack a healthy lunchbox, by in-house Accredited Practicing Dietitian & Nutritionist, Rachel Hawkins.