Totally in my element over the weekend with all things Brain Health for Better Life Outcomes at the 7th Science of Nutrition in Medicine (ACNEM) Conference 2017 (except for the chilly Melbourne weather).
What is more important than a well functioning nervous system?
Prof Felice Jacka, Nutrition and brain health over the life course, discussed 10% of Australia adults and less than 50% of children eat according to dietary guidelines with a dose response to vegetable intake and health outcomes. Information of on what to eat has been muddied by industry with the productions of processed foods pushed out as healthy foods. Mental and substance disorders are the leading source of disability, there is a growing burden of dementia and cognitive disease, and an increase in prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders all linked to diet and lifestyle. Diet quality is linked to common mental health disorders, particularly depression, with either not enough good or too much bad, both are independent factors that increase a person’s risk independent of their socioeconomic status, education, health behaviours, weight and irrespective of the form the diet takes. Genetics and early life trauma are less modifiable than diet and pregnancy is linked to the childrens later mental health. The biological pathways of how diet influences mental health include inflammation and oxidative stress, cytokines, low grade activation of the immune system, brain plasticity and gut microbiome. 70% of our immune function is our gut, with the importance of fermenting foods and fibre. Biological dysregulation (see slide).
A leaky gut is many things degrading the gut lining resulting in the transportation of these factors into the blood stream and mounting an immune response. Experimental evidence suggests exaggerated stress, blunted immune system and increase blood brain barrier permeability is similar to autism and that microbiota is essential for brain development. The sources of bacteria are transient and can help out e.g. probiotics can alter anxiety like behaviours. After 4 generations cannot resuce our microbiota except by facel transplant. We can improve our diet and our mental health. Find out more at the Food Mood Centre.
Prof Michael Berk, The role of mitochondrial dysfunction in mental health and nutrient treatment options, was a fascinating talk on mitochondria in a range of disorders and is an essential feature of bipolar and resting energy phase dysregulation. Many factors including diet and inflammatory markers impact on mitochondria. In mitochondria the failure to up-regulate in the presence of demand and down-regulate when the demand goes. Treatment of hyperthermia increase mitochondria and reduces depression under red lights/sauna. The use of nutraceuticals as treatments are not benign, can worsen some disorders, everyone responds differently to the same foods (recommend viewing Eran Segal).
Dr Felice Gersh, Estrogen and Brain Health: Exploring estrogen’s vital role linking the brain, the gut microbiome, and the immune system, made me realise just how important our hormones are to our overall health. Dr Gersh explored the vital role estrogen plays in linking our brain, gut, microbiome and immune system. Females have three times the prevalence of dementia, rapid cognitive decline, more depression, bipolar, more brain issues due to estrogen. Menopause is the end of metabolic homoeostasis. Estrogen is neuroprotective, and has played an evolutionary role in survival, telling the body you are healthy and able to reproduce. Estrogen receptors affect many organs in the body and regulate mitochondrial production. In Pubmed estrogen replacement therapy is listed as an endrocrine disruptor! Estrogen promotes neural plasticity, cognitive function and is a glucose transporter for the brain. Estrogen controls our circadian rythym, it sets the beat, and controls out autonomic nervous system. Our microbiome is diurnal also influences our circadian rythym and disease susceptibility. Circadian dysfunction can cause leaky gut and our immune system is highly regulate by our circadian rhythm.
Dr Denise Furness, Nutritional genomics and mood disorders, discussed how our genes give us a risk or predisposition not a diagnosis. We are so pro-inflammatory due to stress upregulation which from our evolutionary advatage was great for infections and wounds compared to now we have different types of stress (recommended viewing Julia Rucklidge).
Dr Felice Jacka, Dietary intervention for adults with major depression (The SMILES Trial), asked the question “If I improve my diet, will my mental health improve?” by carrying out a 12 week RCT with people with a poor diet quality, stable, not psychotic/bipolar, tended to be treatment resistant and not vegan/vegetarian. Patients had 7 sessions starting weekly then fortnightly with a modified Mediterranean diet. The study focused on sustainable changes and has various measures of dietary adherence. Patients received a food hamper to try new foods (see slide). It was challenge to recruit to the study, there were many limitations and in hindsight it would have been great to collect samples to test the microbiome. Results showed that those in the dietary intervention had greater reduction in depressive symptoms and one third were in remission. Read more on the SMILES Trial.
Dr Natalie Parletta, Evidence and practical applications for improving diet in patients with mental disorders and impact of diet on mental health from the HELFIMED study, talked how people do not make the connection between diet and our health. Over 35% of our food are from discretionary foods. The HELFIMED was a 6 month RCT on dietary behaviour change and the Mediterranean diet, including teaching people cooking skills and encouraging to eat more whole foods with food hampers, healthy menu plans and cooking support. Results see slide.
A/Prof Ross Grant, Brain Inflammation – an ageing time bomb, discussed the brain inflammation with leaky gut stimulating inflammation in the body as well as the brain and cytokines may be stimulating our vagus nerve. The hippocampus is vulnerable to inflammation and is one of only 2 areas in the brain where neurogenesis is possible.
Dr Dave Jenkins, The Professor Dale Bredesen protocol for reversing early Alzheimer’s disease, was something new to me, how we optimise not just normalise metabolic perturbations, with a lot of behaviour change required, this protocol goes against the silver bullet mindset with a team approach and 50% diet. This integrative approach is based on diet, exercise, sleep, stress and core treatments turmeric, DHA and magnesium with the objective to remove factors that cause or exacerbate damage to the central nervous system and provide with elements to protect, repair and perform to stimulate the central nervous system. Read more on the protocol here.
Dr John Hart, Cognitive decline case study, was inspiring to see such a comprehensive treatment plans including light and circadian rhythm management
This ACNEM weekend continue to support just how important our nutrition is for our mental health. Looking for a simple holistic approach to health and nutrition and want to learn more? Study new online ‘Introduction to Nutrition’ Course at your own pace – 10 modules. Learn and implement new skills, allowing you to make sustainable changes in your health and diet.