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Healthy Balanced Diet And Brain

Updated on March 29, 2012

              Many people ponder over the necessity of a balanced diet but few ponder over the effects of a balanced or imbalanced diet it has on the mind. The brain and its associated structures in the nervous system are of great importance to the normal functioning of the body and to the general welfare of an individual. The activities of all other organs and tissues are controlled by nervous impulses received from the brain and spinal cord, the brain is the coordinating agency of all nervous activity and the brain is the seat of consciousness and of all psychic functions related to consciousness. However, believe it or not, what you eat affects your brain.

              The food you give to a child can determine whether he will grow into a superstar or a big disappointment brain wise. What you also eat before you go to sleep can either induce sleep or make you stay alert. Your loss of memory can be restored by eating food with a certain nutrient- a particular advantage to old people who suffer from memory disorders associated with old age.

               Severe deficiency of certain vitamins and other nutrients can influence mental stability. Doctors have found out that these vitamins are B12 and C. The findings indicate that a wide range of psychiatric symptoms have been associated with a condition called pernicious anemia. A deficiency of vitamin B6 can cause depression. This is because vitamin B6 is necessary for the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter thought to influence mood. Doctors have actually used vitamin B6 to counteract a kind of depression. The opposite side of depression is mania, a disordered mental state of extreme excitement or frenzy. When a person flip-flops from one extreme to the other, he is called maniac- depressive, which can be a very serious mental disorder. Researchers have found out that using tryptophan (an amino acid found in milk) is especially helpful in the maniac stages of the illness in which violence often erupts. The use of this product also helps to eliminate the need for other stronger drugs, such as tranquilizers and antidepressants.

               People have always had theories about how food affects them- many insisting for instance, that drinking hot milk makes them feel sleepy. Others have maintained that fish is ‘brain food’. Researchers have studied how the brain responds to nutrients. They have discovered that our moods, alertness, ability to remember and even our perceptions to pain can be affected by what we eat. Much of the research focused on neurotransmitters, the chemicals through which the brain’s neurons, or nerve cells, communicate with one another at lightening speed.

                Once food is broken into individual nutrients in the digestive tract, these nutrients enter the blood stream and circulate through the brain, where a few of them penetrate the brain’s neurons, affecting the production of neurotransmitters. This means the brain is intimately influenced by what we eat. For instance, carbohydrates are foods that one should have at bed time if you want to feel sleepy as it is a neurotransmitter called serotin that makes you sleepy; but to produce serotin the neurons in your brain need trytophan, one of the amino acids that are the building blocks of protein. Consuming such foods as milk or meat will not do the trick because trytophan is the scarcest amino acid in most proteins, and therefore, in a poor competitive position to cross the blood-brain barrier. This means that it has to be given a clear field by driving away other amino acids and the best way would be by eating carbohydrates. Carbohydrates increase the body’s secretion of insulin, which clears the blood of other amino acids.

                Age is a crucial factor on the effects of nutrients on the brain. Pregnant women and old aged people need food containing nutrients. The diet one takes may have an effect on their body’s functioning. However one would want to look at it, nutrition plays an important role not only in our body functioning but also in psychiatric disturbances.



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