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How food affects your mood? Scientists say it depends on how old you are

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Posted December 12, 2017

Humans are weird. We have emotions we cannot control or, sometimes, explain. For example, why are we so moody sometimes? Scientists from the Binghamton University have conducted a survey, which showed how various food items affect our mood. Interestingly, this effect changes as we age.

Antioxidant-rich food is very helpful for older people’s mood. Image credit: Dirk Ingo Franke via Wikimedia, CC0 Public Domain

Scientists conducted a survey online to see what food brings a better, more stable mood. This is quite important, because food is something we can control easily and a good mood means we are more productive. Scientists found that young people (18-29 years of age) should eat more meat, because it increases availability of neurotransmitter precursors and concentrations in the brain. Meanwhile, older people should eat more fruit, because it increases availability of antioxidants. However, they should also avoid food that inappropriately activates the sympathetic nervous system (coffee, high glycemic index and skipping breakfast). Scientists were surprised to see that food affects younger people differently, but it is all due to chemical balance in the brain.

Scientists also found that the same chemical balance in younger people can be promoted by regular exercising. In other words, eating meat is not exactly necessary, although helpful. The worst case scenario would be to not eat meat regularly and skip on exercising. Meanwhile older people should avoid foods that invoke stress responses, also known as fight-of-flight response. Antioxidants are very important as well in controlling the mood of people over 30. But why is that older people need different food for a healthy mood?

It may be a simple physiological question. As we age, the level of free radical formation (oxidants) increases and so does our need for antioxidants. Lina Begdache, one of the authors of the study, explained: “Free radicals cause disturbances in the brain, which increases the risk for mental distress. Also, our ability to regulate stress decreases, so if we consume food that activates the stress response (such as coffee and too many carbohydrates), we are more likely to experience mental distress”. Now scientists are looking for new potential directions for this study.

Scientists want to see if there is a difference between men and women when it comes to dietary intake and mood. If there is, it could potentially explain different distress levels in couples – they eat the same food, but may be requiring something different.

 

Source: Binghamton University

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