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Overwhelming Sadness, Nourishment and Healthspan

Friday, February 15, 2019

Few people are aware of the connection between nutrition and varying degrees of overwhelming sadness, even though most people understand the connection between nutritional deficiencies and physical illness.

The neuroscience discipline is shedding light on the fact that nutritional factors are intertwined with human cognition, behavior, and emotions.

A notable feature of patients suffering from degrees of sadness is the severity of deficiency in vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and the amino acid precursors to neurotransmitter formation, which are the endogenous chemicals that enable neurotransmission of signals across a chemical synapse, from one neuron to another.  

Many neurotransmitter chemicals are synthesized from simple and plentiful nutrient precursors, such as amino acids, which are readily available from the diet and only require a small number of biosynthetic steps for conversion. 

A number of clinical studies now link the onset, severity, and duration of overwhelming sadness to nutritional deficiencies. Noticeable food intake patterns that precede serious sadness include poor appetite, skipping meals, and a strong desire for sweet foods.

Dietary nutrients are major players in mood

Carbohydrates are naturally occurring polysaccharides that play an important role in human structure and function and have been proven to affect mood and behavior. 

Consuming carbohydrate-rich meals triggers the release of insulin, to be used for both emotional and physical energy, while triggering the brain’s uptake of tryptophan, which affects neurotransmitter levels.

Low-glycemic index foods, such as some fruits and vegetables and some whole grains, seem to provide a more lasting effect on brain chemistry, mood, and energy, while high-glycemic index foods such as sweets, provide immediate but temporary relief.

Proteins are the building blocks of life. A quality protein diet contains the essential amino acids required to form a complete protein. Foods that contain complete protein are meats, dairy products, and eggs.

Plant proteins, such as beans, peas, and grains may be low in one or two of the essential amino acids, which can affect brain functioning and mental health status of those who aren’t aware of the necessity to combine plants to assure dietary intake of the essential amino acids that the human body must ingest from food, since the body cannot make them. 

Unlike fats and carbohydrates, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later use. 

Important neurotransmitters in the brain are produced from essential amino acids. The neurotransmitter dopamine is made from the essential amino acid tyrosine, and the multifaceted neurotransmitter serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan, now linked to modulating cognition, learning, memory, and sense of well-being.  

Fatty acids are also major players in brain health and maintaining a sense of wellness, since fatty acids are structural constituents of neural membranes. 

It's estimated that a large percentage of the brain's fatty acids are polyunsaturated in nature, such as omega-6s and omega-3s, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) supplied through diets including generous amounts of nuts and seeds, as well as docosatetraenoic acid (DHA) derived from fish and ALA metabolism.

Young adults, degrees of overwhelming sadness, nutritional status, and telomeres

Clinical evidence from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey strongly suggests that overwhelming sadness in young adults can affect telomere length. 

Telomeres are the sequences of DNA that shorten every time a cell divides, a natural occurrence that contributes to chromosomal instability over time and eventual cell death.

Researchers frequently use telomere length of white blood cells as a marker of biological aging.

There is a growing body of research that links deficient nutrient intake in those diagnosed with early adult overwhelming sadness, to decreasing telomere length, particularly in those treated with pharmaceutical medications.

Epidemiologic studies have established that overwhelming sadness and shortened telomeres in young adults are predictive of health outcomes in later life. 

Numerous studies are now suggesting that those people who consume nutrient-dense diets and supplements, when necessary, maintain telomere lengths that extend healthy lifespan.

Have a thoughtful and peaceful weekend.

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff

PEARL: As we see it, extra years of a healthy lifespan allow us to do the things we love to do much longer, so attention paid to nutrient intake is well worth the time, energy, and expense.