Diet, Anxiety, and Chemistry
This recent installment of Newsflux goes into the science and chemistry of anxiety, the relationship of your gut and brain, and the dangers of fitness food.
The best articles, research, technology and discoveries in brain news.
Chemistry of Anxiety
In a surprise discovery, scientists have found that social anxiety is due to a chemical imbalance of serotonin in the brain.
Why is it a surprise? It was previously thought that anxiety was caused because the brain had low amounts of serotonin. The new study reveals that it’s actually because there is too much serotonin.
Drug companies may have been getting it wrong all along. Pharmaceuticals like Zoloft and Prozac are made for anxiety. These drugs are designed to increase serotonin, which is in direct contrast with the new information provided by the study.
Hopefully we see some changes from Big Pharma in light of the new findings.
There was another interesting article that links anxiety to a common behavior. What common behavior could possibly be making you anxious?
Sitting too much.
Scientists reviewed 9 studies that looked at sedentary behavior and its effects. They found that there was a link between sitting on your duff and worrying about stuff.
The study highlights the fact that several mechanisms could be causing the underlying anxiety – like poor sleep patterns, isolation, or poor metabolism. Further studies will unravel the exact causes and hopefully guide behavior strategies to reduce anxiety as a whole.
Stroke Ages Your Brain
Having a stroke is universally known to be bad. Recently, however, scientists wanted to find out just how much it can effect brain health.
The authors looked at information on adults that were part of a large national survey that was completed over several years. They then matched this information with Medicare data.
They selected data from people that had recent strokes. They then looked at test scores of individuals for both processing speed and memory tests. The researchers concluded that individuals who have had a stroke had dropped in their performance to what could be compared to the brains of individuals who were approximately 8 years older.
While we know strokes aren’t good, using the age comparison helps emphasize the fact of how detrimental strokes can be on brain abilities.
Tips, tricks, and hacks for getting the most out of your brain.
Cognitive Flexibility is the ability to change and adapt to new situations. While you may not hear a lot about this particular brain skill in the news, it plays a vital role in your life.
New research out of Oregon State University experimented with high fat and high sugar diets on mice. They saw that the two diets can limit your ability to adapt. A diet high in either sugar or fat seems to cause learning to be impaired for both long and short term memories. The effect was more pronounced with diets high in sugar.
The team noticed that the mechanism driving this change actually occurred in the gut. The bacteria reacted to the diet in such a way that it affected neurological systems. Evidence that is consistent with previous research on gut bacterial and microbiome studies.
While the study was conducted with mice in the laboratory, it has been found that their biological systems are excellent models for humans. While we know we should watch our sugar and fat, this is another great reason to pay attention to diet for the sake of your thinking abilities.
Danger: Fitness Food
Speaking of eating healthier, it’s important to keep track of your habits and behavior. Sometimes we’re lulled into thinking that we’re doing our bodies (and brains) good, when in reality it is simply not the case.
A new study published in the Journal of Marketing Research has found that some people may be falling into such a trap with “fitness branded” foods.
In particular, the authors looked at the behavior of people that were “restrained” eaters – individuals who are constantly worried about weight. They tested two different types of snacks on participants. One was labeled as Trail Mix and the other as Fitness. Also, the fitness branded snack added a picture of running shoes to make it appear healthier.
Here’s what happened. The people who were concerned about losing weight, actually ate more of the fitness branded snack. Not only that, but they also exercised less.
So if you’re trying to lose weight, make sure to keep one fact in mind. Eating snacks that are healthy (or appear to be healthy) is still no substitute for physical activity. And you still have to be careful of what else you eat.
The connection between gut bacteria and its effect on our brains is a pretty popular topic these days. From cognitive flexibility, as mentioned earlier, to how we actually behave.
Earlier this month a study from Baltimore, Maryland found a link between fermented foods and social anxiety.
Their basic finding was that young adults who ate more fermented foods had less social anxiety. The effect is even greater for those that were at risk, genetically, for social anxiety.
While the study doesn’t show a cause and effect relationship (that eating fermented foods causes less social anxiety), the scientists already have plans for such an experiment.
One of the authors of the study stated:
“These initial results highlight the possibility that social anxiety may be alleviated through low-risk nutritional interventions”
How to Combat Anxiety
Food isn’t the only thing that may be able to help fight anxiety. Since the topic of social anxiety has popped up numerous times recently, it’s only fair to give you information on how you might be able to overcome it.
A therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to be one of the most effective techniques in battling anxiety. An article from Psychology Today describes this other methods that people can use to help them battle excessive worrying.
It’s a little bit of a longer read, but provides 10 methods from a psychologist for you to check out.
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