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Category Archives: Mental health

Categories Healthy eating, Latest Research, Mental health, Uncategorized

Trans and saturated fats linked to depression in a new study

Statistics show that 150 million people suffer from depression worldwide and this may be due in part to dietary changes away from unprocessed polyunsaturated fats towards a higher intake of saturated and trans fats.

Researchers from the Universities of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria have found that there is a link between eating trans and saturated fats and an increased risk of depression whereas olive oil is protective against it.

Saturated fats are found in red meat, dairy such as cheese, milk, cream, ice cream and butter as well as being found in many packaged and processed foods. Trans fats are processed fats and oils and have been found in the past in margarines (although these days much less so), fried food like crisps and chips and foods like samosas and spring rolls.

Results showed that despite the fact that none of the volunteers suffered from depression at the beginning of the study, at the end of the study, 657 new cases had been detected.

For those in the study that are higher amounts of trans fats they “presented up to a 48% increase in the risk of depression when they were compared to participants who did not consume these fats” said Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.  He added that, “the more trans-fats were consumed, the greater the harmful effect they produced in the volunteers”.

The researchers also looked at the effects of polyunsaturated fats found in fish and vegetable oils on the occurrence of depression.  Professor Sanchez-Villegas , “In fact, we discovered that this type of healthier fats, together with olive oil, are associated with a lower risk of suffering depression”.

healthy eating tips would be to eat more polyunsaturated fats found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and also seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, linseed and sesame seeds.

Try this delicious and easy seed mix

Seed Mix
It is useful to have a coffee grinder to grind nuts and seeds. Have a mix of one part each of sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds (these should be organic when posssible)) with two parts linseeds (flax) kept in an airtight container in the fridge. Take a good handful of this a day, grind in the coffee grinder and add to cereal, top onto yoghurt or add to salads. Delicious, packed full of good fats and has the added bonus of minerals and some protein too.


Categories Alzheimers, In the news, Latest Research, Memory, Mental health, Uncategorized

Study shows raised homocysteine levels are linked to dementia

An article in Nature Journal confirms previous evidence that raised homocysteine levels are a likely primary predictor and potential cause of the brain damage that identifies Alzheimer’s.  ‘homocysteine is associated with an increase in the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia’ Levels of Homocysteine area associated with a lack of Vitamin B6, B12 and Folic acid.

Good dietary sources of these foods rich in B6, B12 and folic acid

Dark green leafy vegetables, Whole grains, Fortified breakfast cereals and fortified refined white flour. Whole grain flour. rice, black-eyed peas, lentils, bananas, avocado, broccolli, wheatgerm, peanuts, eggs, tuna, salmon.

More information about homocysteine and its effect on health

Test for high homocysteine levels

Categories In the news, Latest Research, Mental health

Balance blood sugar to keep aggression at bay

Research published this week suggests that  a sweet drink allowed students to remain calmer under stressful provocation than their counterparts who had been given an artificially sweetened drink. Student volunteers performed tasks such as preparing a speech to be read to a stranger; this speech was then criticised as boring and disappointing. Those who had drunk a sugary lemonade responded to this provocation leading the Australian researchers to conclude that the brain may need glucose for functions such as controlling behaviour.

The researchers are correct in concluding that the brain needs glucose to function correctly. However, they fail to acknowledge that sugary drinks will provide the brain with glucose for only a short time because insulin will be produced in order to reduce the high blood sugar. This will ultimately result in a lowering of blood sugar to levels below the consumption of the sugary drink, and an increased likelihood of poor stress control and aggressive responses.

The study involved the students fasting for 3 hours. After three hours, most people would have a falling blood sugar that may make them susceptible to mood changes. The study did not report what the students had eaten prior to the fast, but if it was a meal low in protein, complex carbohydrates and essential fats (these are students!), it is likely that their blood sugar was quite low. The students drinking the sugary drink would have increased their blood sugar, but only for a short time.

In order to avoid these dips in blood sugar that can cause mood swings and a reduced ability to deal with stressful situations and remain calm under provocation, it is important to eat regular meals and snacks containing protein, essential fats and low glycaemic carbohydrates that are digested slowly. The brain will then have a constant source of glucose without the need for hormonal involvement that may cause stress. Avoiding simple sugars reduces the production of insulin that can ultimately result in low blood sugar. Eating three meals and at least two snacks daily, going no more than three or four hours without food, can help to regulate blood sugar and hormones. 

Why not try some of these meal and snack ideas to balance blood sugar, or call Emma at Smart Nutrition to get more advice?

Breakfast suggestions: 

*Porridge with milk and berries and/or cinnamon to sweeten 

*Muesli with nuts and seeds and milk or yogurt 

*Fresh fruit salad with yogurt, nuts and seeds 

*Grilled bacon with tomatoes 

*Scrambled, boiled or poached eggs on a slice wholemeal toast 

*Peanut butter on wholemeal toast 

Snack suggestions: 

*Nuts, seeds or natural yoghurt with some fruit. Low-sugar fruits include apples, pears, plums and berries, while high sugar fruits are dried fruits (the dehydration process means the fruit sugar is more concentrated), bananas, grapes and melon. Fruit’s high nutrient content outweighs the negative sugar impact in most cases, but be aware that if you’re going to eat a banana, for example, it might be wise to also have some nuts in order to keep things balanced.

 *Oatcakes with nut or seed butter eg tahini, peanut butter, almond butter 

*Vegetable crudités with hummus 

*1-2 squares dark chocolate with nuts to balance the sugar. This way you can still have chocolate as a snack, but just make sure you are balancing the sugar if you do. Same goes for biscuits/cake etc. If you do have these foods (try to limit them as much as you can), ensure you also have some protein to counter-balance the negative effects. 

Lunch suggestions: 

*Wholemeal sandwich/pitta/roll etc or salad centred around a protein source such as chicken, tuna, salmon, cheese, lentils, tofu, nuts, hummous etc 

*Soup with meat or lentils with a wholemeal roll and soft cheese/peanut butter instead of butter 

*Egg/beans/peanut butter on toast (beans are a mixture of complex carb and protein) 

*…and follow with nuts/yoghurt/fruit (if well tolerated). Following with refined foods will just make you crash and burn and heading for a mid-afternoon slump! 

Dinner suggestions: 

*Grilled or roasted meat or fish with seasonal vegetables and brown rice, pasta or potatoes with skin (boiled, mashed or baked) 

*Stir-fry including chicken, prawns, cashew nuts, tofu etc and vegetables served with wholemeal rice or egg noodles. (Brown basmati rice is the lowest GI rice) 

*Meat or lentil curry with brown rice 

*Spaghetti bolognaise with wholemeal spaghetti 

*Salmon fillet with steamed broccoli, courgette and peppers and sweet potato mash (sweet potato is lower GI than regular potato) 

Or any protein with or without a small amount of wholegrain rice, pasta or bread, quinoa, noodles or potato with skin (boiled, mashed or baked) and lots of salad, fruit or veg for vitamins and minerals.

Categories Heart disease, In the news, Latest Research, Mental health

High fat diets may cause emotional disturbance

Research to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behaviour (SSIB) has found that a prolonged high fat diet is associated with changing levels of a brain chemical called dopamine. This chemical conducts signals in the brain that control movement, emotional responses and the ability to feel pleasure or pain. Low dopamine levels adversely affect comfort, satisfaction and a sense of fullness after eating.

The research was carried out in Chicago on rats that has consumed a high fat diet for 2 or 6 weeks. Compared to rats consuming a standard low fat diet, high fat rats released lower levels of dopamine and had reduced reuptake of dopamine by dopamine transporters in the brain.

The research ties in with previous studies that  have linked obesity and high fat diets with reduced dopamine transporter numbers. The authors conclude that diet may have an important impact on brain neurochemistry.

Cutting out saturated fat from the diet is also important to reduce the risks associated with obesity and developing heart disease. However, it is important to include essential polyunsaturated fats found in oily fish, nuts and seeds as these are beneficial for brain chemicals and they can keep depression at bay. Replacing fatty meats, cakes, biscuits, cheese and full fat dairy products with low fat options and foods that are high in polyunsaturated fats can boost health and emotional well being.

Try these top ten swaps:

  • Swap fatty cuts of beef, pork or lamb for chicken breasts or trim the fat from lean chops or steak.
  • Use chicken, turkey or soya mince instead of minced beef, or grind your own mince from lean steak.
  • Swap butter for olive oil on bread; try rubbing toast with a little garlic before drizzling with extra virgin olive oil.
  • Grill, bake, poach or steam instead of frying.
  • Snack on nuts and seeds with fresh fruit instead of cakes and pastries.
  • Choose nairns oatcakes or oat biscuits instead of biscuits containing hydrogenated oils – these trans fats are the fast track to heart disease.
  • Try cottage cheese instead of full fat options – if you find it bland choose one flavoured with onions and chives or add your own herbs.
  • Soya or tofu sausages make a wonderful alternative to traditional sausages. If you prefer meat, choose an organic pork sausage and prick the skin before grilling.
  • Swap pork pies for smoked mackerel fillets when picnicking. Prepare crudités of peppers, carrots, celery and cucumbers instead of crisps.
  • Swap ice creams for homemade sorbets or ice lollies made from blended fruits.

To discuss other ways of cutting out fat and making choices that boost neurotransmitter production, why not call Emma at Smart Nutrition?

Categories In the news, Mental health

Eating Disorders Awareness Week starts today.

This week, February 22nd-27th, is the National Eating Disorders Awareness week. The media often glamorises anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders, as super thin models and celebrities sell magazines, but the truth is that anorexia has the highest mortality rate for any psychiatric condition.

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating and compulsive eating are complex and painful illnesses, rooted in psychological distress. Eating disorders are often kept secret by sufferers whose body weight, shape and size may remain stable, despite inner pain and turmoil.

1.6 million people in the UK are estimated to have an eating disorder and many of these are termed as having an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS); you do not have to have the typical features of anorexia, bulimia, compulsive or binge eating to have an eating disorder.

Eating disorders arise from a variety of physical, emotional and social issues, all of which need to be addressed for effective prevention and treatment. Disordered eating causes many nutrient deficiencies and biochemical imbalances in the brain and body which need treating in order for any psychological work to be effective. If you think that your eating has become chaotic or disordered, talking to Emma may allow some of these imbalances to be identified; why not call Smart Nutrition during Eating Disorders Awareness Week on 01273 775480?

Categories In the news, Latest Research, Mental health

Omega 3 fats may prevent onset of schizophrenia

A study published in this month’s Archives of General Psychiatry has found that fish oil may at least delay, but probably prevent, the onset of schizophrenia. Dr Paul Amminger and his colleagues from the University of Australia carried out a randomised, double blind, controlled study with 81 patients between the ages of 13-25 years. They found a 22.6% difference in risk to progression to psychosis in vulnerable people taking a twelve week course of fish oil, compared with a placebo.

Fish oil contains high levels of the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Dr Amminger was surprised to see that the effects of omega 3 were sustained for up to a year and to see a marked but similar reduction in depressive symptoms. Adverse effects of the study, including concentration difficulties, tension and unrest were higher in the placebo group.

Unlike anti-psychotics, fish oil can prevent cell deterioration in the brain and reduce levels of triglycerides that are so damaging to blood vessels. This is very significant because anti-psychotic drugs can rapidly double triglyceride levels.

The research supports a growing body of evidence that fish oil may be a useful tool to fight schizophrenic symptoms; previous research has shown that people with schizophrenia who were treated with omega 3 needed lower doses of anti-psychotic medication. Epidemiological studies show that countries who eat a lot of oily fish, such as Japan, Iceland and Norway have lower levels of shizophrenia.

One of the researchers, Dr Jacka suggested that ‘Omega-3 fatty acids in general are absolutely essential to virtually every aspect of human health.’

To boost your levels of omega 3 fatty acids, it is advisable to eat three portions of oily fish each week. Smaller fish such as whitebait, sardines and mackerel tend to be lower in toxic mercury. Wild or organic salmon or trout are preferable to farmed varieties. The Food Standards Agency recommends that pregnant or breastfeeding women should eat no more than two medium sized cans of tuna each week or one fresh tuna steak. Shark, swordfish and Marlin contain high levels of mercury and shouldn’t be eaten by pregnant or breastfeeding women or children under 16.

To find out more about testing you fatty acid status Click Here.

To read more about mental health and how nutrition can help Click Here.

Why not try these delicious recipes to boost your intake of omega 3?

Herrings with mustard and dill

For the sauce, peel and deseed 1 small cucumber, then grate and squeeze out the excess water. Mix with a handful of chopped dill, 200g natural yogurt, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, salt, pepper and a pinch of paprika.

Fillet 4 cleaned whole herrings and brush with 2tbsp mustard over the boned sides. Mix 4-5 tbsp porridge oats with 1 tsp thyme leaves and use to coat the herring fillets. Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil gently in a non-stick frying pan and fry the fish for 1 minute on each side. Serve immediately with the sauce.

Smoked trout, orange and wild rocket salad


3 oranges

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

sea salt and black pepper

200g wild rocket leaves

2 hot smoked trout fillets

1. To segment the oranges, cut off the top and bottom of one and stand  upright on a board. Cut along the curve of the fruit to remove the skin and white pith, exposing the flesh. Now hold over a sieve set on top of a bowl and cut out the segments, letting each one drop into the sieve as you go along. Finally, squeeze the membrane over the sieve to extract as much juice as possible. Repeat with the remaining oranges, then tip the segments into another bowl.

2. For the dressing, add the olive oil and a little seasoning to the orange juice and whisk to combine.

3. Add the rocket to the orange sgments, then flak the smoked trout into the bowl. Add the dressing and toss gently with your hands. Pile onto plates and serve with rye bread.

                                                               Recipes taken from ‘Healthy Appetite’ by Gordon Ramsay

Japanese style tuna salad


350g fresh tuna steak

large bunch rocket

1/2 large cucumber, sliced in long strips

4 spring onions, finely sliced

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted

For the marinade:

2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce

1 tbsp sake/sherry

1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste

For the dressing:

1 tbsp lime juice

2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

Mix the tamari, sake and wasabi in a bowl to make the marinade, Cut up the tuna steak into bite-sized chunks and mix with the marinade. Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Pile the rocket, cucumber strips, spring onion and tomatoes on two plates. Heat a griddle pan, or non-stick frying pan and toss the tuna pieces for a fe seconds on each side to sear them. Lay then on top of the salad and drizzle with the dressing. Top with the toasted sesame seeds.

                                                                                            Taken from ‘The Kitchen Shrink’ by Natalie Savona