Nutritional Neuroscience

Nutritional Neuroscience – effects of macronutrients (protein, fats, carbohydrates), minerals, vitamins, hormones, and additives on the nervous system neurobiology, neurochemistry, cognition, and behavioural biology. 

Increasingly the links between diet and mental health are gathering support from academic and clinical research communities. But the role of diet in the nation’s mental health has yet to be fully understood and embraced and shifts in policy/practice have been slow to materialise.

The Department of Health and Social Care estimated that roughly 1.4 million children aged between 2 and 15 were classified as obese in 2018… with the rates for older children (10- to 11-year-olds) increasing from 18.7% to 20.2% between 2009/10 and 2018/19’.

Between 1993 and 2019 overweight (BMI 25–30 kg/m²) and obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m²) prevalence in the U.K. adult population increased from 27% to 64%’ (Digital NHS UK, 2017 Survey 1993 – 2010; 2020, Survey 2013 – 2019). The failure of the ‘low-fat era’ and ‘calorie-centric paradigm’ of one size fits all, is evident in the so-called ‘obesity epidemic’, with nearly 25% of the U.K. population classed as obese.

Nutritional neuroscience is therefore looking to understand the nutritional mechanisms and their effect on the brain, to show how they are involved in almost every facet of neurological and physiological functioning. As well as considering general health psychology or how psychology, behavior, and social factors influence poor and good health and well-being. 

An example of investment in nutritional neuroscience is The Zoe PREDICT studies or ‘Personalised Responses to Dietary Composition Trial’. PREDICT series of nutritional science studies are looking to trial the concept of ‘precision nutrition, which may point to a complimentary endocrine-centric paradigm vs. calorie-centric paradigmin recognising that each individual’s endocrinal, metabolic, and gut microbial responses vary in response to different foods vs. just the impact of a unit of energy called a calorie. 

PREDICT asks, ‘how do macronutrients behave on their own, and in combinations of foods, and dietary patterns, in their intimate interconnection within the whole person, factoring genetic as well as endocrinal, glycaemic, metabolic, and gut microbial individual differences. For example, PREDICT may identify population subgroups, such as those suffering Alzheimer’s and Depression, that may readily benefit from precision nutritional interventions, especially in the face of obesity and type II diabetes comorbidities.