Koslo's Nutrition Solutions

Friday, February 28, 2014

Reaction Time and the Foods You Eat

Egg whites and spinach are two foods rich in nutrients that are often recommended to maintain health, and studies are backing this up again. Both of these foods are rich in tyrosine, a nonessential amino acid and a building block for the mood-enhancing neurotransmitters epinephrine, norephinephrine, and dopamine. These chemicals affect our mood, alertness, and even our reaction time. While deficiency is rare, chronic stress can deplete your body of tyrosine. So if you think your reactions are a bit too slow, according to new research, you may want to take a look at your diet.
Tyrosine and Reaction Time
A team of researchers from Leiden University and the University of Amsterdam conducted a novel study to find out if tyrosine intake can improve our ability to stop in an instant. To test their theory, the scientists created a “stopping task” and tested the reaction times of participants on a computer screen. The task involved watching for different colored arrows to appear: Whenever a green arrow appeared, they were told to press the corresponding button as fast as possible, and the buttons had to match the direction of the arrow, either left or right. If the arrow was red they were told to do nothing.
The participants completed two sessions in the lab: With and without tyrosine supplementation. During one session, the participants were given a tyrosine-enriched orange juice before the task, and during the other session they were given a glass of orange juice containing a placebo. What the researchers found was that participants who drank the tyrosine-enriched juice reacted faster and had improved reflexes.
How Does Reaction Time Work?
You might be wondering why it is important to react faster, save catching a soccer ball thrown at you! Well, the speed of your reactions plays a large part in your everyday life and according to the researchers of this study, reacting faster could have implications for road safety. Reacting even a split second faster when driving could save you from an accident.
So just what is reaction time and how does it work? Reaction time is a measure of how quickly an organism responds to some sort of stimulus. The master center for your reactions is your brain. In less than a second it processes information and then sends impulse signals to your brain telling it how to respond. That’s where tyrosine comes into the picture. Because tyrosine is a building block for neurotransmitters it helps nerve cells communicate and influences cognitive performance and mood. If you are sleep deprived or under chronic stress such as being in the military, your body may not be able to make enough tyrosine. How much tyrosine we have is also affected by our age, personality type, gender, and of course our diet.
Benefits of Tyrosine
Under normal circumstances your body should be able to make all the tyrosine it needs because it is a nonessential amino acid, meaning you don’t need to obtain it through your diet. Tyrosine is made in your body from l-phenylalanine so as long as you consume protein containing foods like like meat, dairy, fish, soy, nuts, and seeds your body will be able to make what it needs. In clinical studies supplemental tyrosine has been shown to improve mental function and memory after sleep deprivation and to improve cognitive performance in military personal undergoing combat training. So far studies examining it’s effect on depression, attention deficit disorder, and exercise performance have produced mixed results.
Before you consider taking a dietary supplement of acetyl l-tyrosine or l-tyrosine talk to your doctor. Tyrosine will interact with thyroid hormones and the drug Levodopa, used to treat Parkinson’s Disease. While tyrosine is safe when consumed in food amounts, the use of supplemental tyrosine has only been studied short-term in adults.
Foods Highest in Tyrosine
I am a big proponent of foods first, supplement only if necessary. If you think you could use some mental sharpening I would encourage you to shore up your diet with tyrosine containing foods. The following is a list of some of the foods highest in tyrosine based on levels per 200-calorie serving:
·      Soy protein isolate: 1907mg
·      Egg white, raw: 1904mg
·      Cottage cheese, low-fat: 1833mg
·      Dried spirulina: 1782mg
·      Salmon: 1774mg
·      Turkey, white meat: 1771mg
·      Mustard greens: 1587mg
·      Spinach: 1483mg
Our response time can slow down with age, so eating foods with tyrosine might be helpful for maintaining both basic reaction time and competitive edge. Experts also say that you can help your aging reflexes by staying physically active.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Cardiovascular Disease Reversing Effects of Flaxseeds

Flaxseed already had a strong track record as a food providing cardiovascular benefits due to its unique nutritional makeup, and now thanks to new research, there is even stronger evidence identifying how this food can benefit your heart. Recent findings show that adding just four tablespoons per day of ground flaxseed to the diet can significantly reduce blood pressure and reverse the effects of heart disease.

Clinically Confirmed Health Benefits

Heart disease continues to top the list of the leading causes of death in the US. The good news is that it can be prevented or delayed by three main lifestyle changes: diet modifications, incorporating exercise, and stopping smoking. Of those, making a few targeted dietary modifications may give you the biggest bang for your buck, and eating flaxseeds is one of them.

A new study published in Hypertension, tested the effects of ground flaxseed in patients with peripheral artery disease, a circulatory disease that causes narrowing of the arteries that reduces blood flow to your limbs. Hypertension is a primary cause of this disease so the aim of the study was to examine the effects of daily consumption of ground flaxseed on systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP) blood pressure. For six months, 110 patients ingested a variety of foods containing 30 grams (about four tablespoons) of milled flaxseed or placebo per day. The results at the end of the study were remarkable: in the flaxseed group, systolic blood pressure (top number) decreased by 10 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) decreased by 7 mm Hg! Those results rival the best of medications without the side effects.
It’s All About Synergy

Flaxseeds health benefits stem from the synergistic effect of its unique nutritional makeup. The first unique feature is its high omega-3 fatty acid content. The primary omega-3 fatty acid is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential fat that must be obtained through the diet. The second unique feature is its lignans, which are fiber-like compounds that provide antioxidant benefits due to their high polyphenol content. The third unique feature is their mucilage or gum content. This type of water-soluble, gel-forming fiber can improve absorption of certain nutrients in the small intestine.

When it comes to your heart, both ALA and lignans protect our blood vessels from inflammatory damage by inhibiting platelet activating factor (PAF). This has been confirmed by studies showing how consumption of flaxseed decreases levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a maker of inflammation in the cardiovascular system. Levels of two other cardio-protective omega-3 fatty acids increase in the bloodstream with flax intake, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic (DHA) acid. Flaxseed has also been shown to decrease total and LDL-cholesterol and decrease oxidation of LDL due to its antioxidant properties and fiber content. Finally, ingestion of flaxseed can lower blood pressure by improving dilation of arteries and improving blood flow.

What Other Health Benefits Does Flaxseed Have?

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of flaxseed don’t just apply to the cardiovascular system. Studies have shown that the risk for breast, prostrate and colon cancer is reduced with regular consumption. Flaxseed also benefits the digestive system due to its gum or mucilage content which delays stomach emptying and improves nutrient absorption. An area with mixed findings is post-menopausal benefits such as decreased hot flashes. Results have been mixed so no conclusions can be made at this point.

Finding Ways to Add Flaxseed to Your Diet

Many experts believe it is better to eat flaxseed as opposed to flax oil (which contains just part of the seed) so that you get all of the components, but stay tuned as researchers continue to investigate. So how much do you need? The amount used in most research studies is 30 grams or about four tablespoons, but according to the Flax Council of Canada, consuming one to two tablespoons per day will allow you to reap flaxseeds benefits.

One of the easiest ways to add flaxseed to your diet is to incorporate the milled seed into your muffin or bread recipes. A question that you may have “is won’t the oven temperature destroy the omega-3s?” Fortunately it won’t, as confirmed in a number of recent studies so next time you bake, try substituting ground flaxseed for part of the flour in recipes for quick breads, muffins, rolls, breads, bagels, pancakes and waffles. Experiment with replacing ¼ to ½ cup of the flour with ground flaxseed if the recipe calls for two or more cups of flour. Flaxseed also makes a great egg replacer as it forms a gel when it is soaks in water. Also try adding this nutritious food to your smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, or as a topper for a salad. It also works well in dark, moist dishes like meatloaf, chili, meatballs, and casseroles.

If you can, buy whole flaxseed (brown and golden are nutritionally similar), store it in the freezer, and grind it in a coffee grinder right before using. Once you start adding ground flaxseed to a certain food it will soon become a habit and you won’t have to think about the great dietary choice you are making.