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Supporting Our Mental Health, Cognition & Brain Function

In our current world, it is imperative to look after our state of mind. What with being in a third lockdown, in a winter season which seems never-ending, and not being able to see our friends and family or resume with normal life. 

Making time to look after ourselves and nourish our bodies to the best of our abilities is something we have control over and can try to do during these very strange times. We rely heavily on our cognition in our day to day lives, and sometimes forget how important it is to look after our mental health as much as our physical health. 

Within this blog our Nutrition Team are going to look at the top nutrients to support our cognition and brain health. 

Omega 3 Fatty Acids 

Omega 3 fatty acids are incredibly important for proper functioning of the brain. It has been studied that people who regularly consume omega 3s are less likely to suffer from depression. These fatty acids perform a number of jobs; most significantly building cell membranes throughout the body and the brain. 

There are three types of omega 3s. ALA is found in chia, flax, hemp and various other seeds. The body converts ALA into EPA or DHA. EPA has shown promising results for fighting symptoms of depression and anxiety in various studies, and DHA has been found to promote the efficient electrical signalling between nerve cells and even appear to improve mental concentration. 

EPA and DHA are found mostly in oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon and sardines. However, a plant-based version of DHA is available in the form of Algae, found in GP Nutrition’s GOLD supplement. 

B12 & B Vitamins 

B12 is naturally found in animal products, and various breakfast cereals and plant based milks can also be fortified with the vitamin. B12 is imperative for those consuming a vegetarian or vegan diet. 

However, now that our soils are now so depleted of nutrients, even omnivores are becoming prone to deficiencies. Vitamin B12 deficiency has been associated with memory loss, especially in older adults.

This is particularly common in the elderly, which may also be down to the importance of the gut in the absorption of B12. To absorb B12 we need optimal hydrochloric acid, intrinsic factor and proper functioning of the liver, as this is where most of our B12 is sorted. 

Certain B vitamins also play a role as co-enzymes which support the nervous system, and brain function. Neurotransmitters are made within our neurons via the interaction of various chemicals – including several B-vitamins. For instance, vitamin B6 supports the formation of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which is involved in our experience of reward, happiness and pleasure.

Antioxidants

Fortunately, our body has a natural defence system and is able to fight off and protect itself from oxidative stress. This comes in the form of Antioxidants. The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, and we are exposed to this damage everyday, in the form of tobacco smoke, pollution, toxins and UV radiation. 

Antioxidants come in the form of vitamins C, E, A (beta carotene), zinc and selenium. Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant which have been shown to have particularly positive effects for the ageing brain. The foods highest in these incredible compounds are berries, leafy greens, colourful produce such as butternut squash, plums, grapes and avocados. 

Magnesium 

Magnesium is essential for hundreds of enzyme reactions that affect everything from bones, blood sugar, to nerves and brain cells. In GP’s Calm Me, the form of Magnesium we use is Malate, which is known to be the form which has a high absorption rate. Magnesium Malate, a combination of Magnesium and Malic acid [which is found in apples], is a salt formulation which are much more easily absorbed into the body.

Around 80% of the UK population have a deficiency of Magnesium, due to soil deficiencies, and not consuming enough foods that contain Magnesium or having absorption issues within the gut.

Self-Care 

There are also ways to support our mental health during this 3rd lockdown, which are lifestyle factors. We can make sure we are getting enough exercise, fresh air, prioritising sleep, doing something for ourselves each day that we enjoy, and keep in contact with our friends and family - even if it is through zoom! All of these things may seem small, but they really make a huge difference to our mental outlook and to the health of our brains.