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Scientific evidence that macaroni and cheese, ice cream, and chocolate do indeed comfort. August 2, 2011

Posted by ADAM PARTNERS in Carbohydrates, COMFORT FOODS, DRUG ADDICTION, FOOD, Obesity, Pharmacology, Uncategorized.
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High resolution fMRI of the Human brain.


In an experiment with healthy volunteers, researchers found fatty acids administered to the stomach blunt the behavioral and nerve cell responses to sad emotion, providing scientific evidence that comfort foods such as macaroni and cheese, ice cream, and chocolate do indeed comfort.

The brief report was published online July 25 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. “Everyone knows this from personal experience,” lead author Lukas Van Oudenhove, MD, PhD, from the University of Leuven, Belgiumtold Medscape Medical News. “Now we have scientific proof that this widely known phenomenon has a scientific basis.”Dr. Van Oudenhove explained that he has always been interested in gut brain signalling in the context of gastrointestinal pain.

“I have performed studies where we do distention of the stomach and the esophagus and look at the brain mechanisms that are involved in processing these painful and nonpainful sensations. Those studies showed that emotions could modulate or interact with these sensations,” he said.

By chance, his colleagues at the University of Manchester, in the United Kingdom, had been studying signals in the brain induced by fatty acids in the stomach when Dr. Van Oudenhove arrived there to do a fellowship. It was then that the researchers decided to see just how emotions interact with the gut brain signals generated by fatty acids.

To do this, they recruited healthy volunteers to undergo four 40-minute functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) examinations while listening to emotional music and viewing sad, fearful faces to induce sad emotion. At the same time, the participants randomly received either a saline or a fatty-acid intragastric infusion.

The researchers rated the participants’ sensations of hunger, fullness, and mood.

The investigators found that participants receiving the fatty acids reported feeling less sad when they were viewing the sad faces or hearing the sad music. In addition, the fMRI images of the brain showed that fatty-acid infusion lessened the neural responses to sad emotions in regions of the brain, including the medulla/pons, midbrain, hypothalamus, thalamus, striatum, cerebellum, insula, hippocampus, amygdala, and cingulate cortex.

“We already knew that there was some interactions between emotions and food, but mostly we were thinking about that in terms of the sensory aspects of feeding, like smell and taste and sight,” Dr. Van Oudenhove said.

“Here, we showed for the first time that if you bypass all of this and you administer foods in a completely subconscious way, without anyone knowing whether they were getting saline or fatty acids, we still see this effect on emotion. This is where the novelty of this study lies.”

Not Ready for Prime Time

As intriguing as the finding is, there is still a long way to go before it can be applied clinically, Dr. Van Oudenhove said.

“This study needs to be replicated in a larger sample of healthy volunteers to confirm our results and also to tease out the mechanisms of communication between the gut and the brain that are actually involved in the phenomenon that we described. We need to establish exactly how this works,” he said.

If this pans out, the next step would be to see whether these mechanisms are abnormal in people with certain disorders, such as depression, obesity, and eating disorders.

“It’s only after we show that gut brain signalling is abnormal in these conditions that we can start thinking about any therapeutic implications. So I see this more as a preclinical study,” Dr. Van Oudenhove said.

In an accompanying editorial, Giovanni Cizza, MD, PhD, and Kristina I. Rother, MD, from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, Maryland, write that the field of research on the mind-body connection “has suffered from a Cartesian top-down approach, in which the brain or mind is presumed to influence the body.”

This study shows that this mind-body relationship is bi-directional and that the body can be a powerful modulator of emotions, they note, citing as an example the practice by neonatologists of giving sugar to a neonate before they perform an invasive procedure to shorten the time the baby cries in pain.

The study broadens “our understanding of the ties between food and mood and underscore promising targets for obesity treatments,” they write.



Posted by ADAM PARTNERS in Carbohydrates, FOOD.
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Carbohydrates are the principal source of the body’s energy and are divided into two types —simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates include the various sugars found in fruit (fructose), milk (lactose), and table sugar (sucrose). Complex carbohydrates are found in vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Complex carbohydrates are preferable, as it takes longer for the body to break them down, releasing the sugar into the bloodstream slowly. Simple carbohydrates, especially table sugar, can flood the body and trigger an oversecretion of insulin by the isles of Langerhans, resulting in an initial surge of energy from the sugar followed by lethargy caused by the sudden rush of insulin. Foods should be unrefined, fresh, and natural; refined foods, canned goods, and snack foods should be avoided.

Food Sources: Fruits, whole grains, vegetables.

Effects: Carbohydrates help relax the brain and are necessary for good mental functioning. They act as an antidepressant for people with less sugarinduced serotonin in the brain than normal (such as those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder [SAD]), possibly by amplifying serotonergic neurotransmission. If consumption is timed right, they can increase the brain’s energy levels, as they are readily broken down into glucose, a simple sugar found in nature that is necessary for the brain’s functioning.

Precautions: Fructose does not have this calming effect. Simple sugars (table sugar, brown sugar, and honey, for instance) have no nutritional value except for calories, and can promote cavities, cause rapid changes in blood sugar and insulin, and lead to obesity, hypoglycemia, and diabetes, among other disorders. Some people are “carbohydrate cravers,” and need them to prevent drowsiness, restlessness, or boredom; instead of becoming sleepy, these people become more focused and alert, and better sustain concentration. Carbohydrates are safe and, to quote Dr. Stuart Berger, “They are the only food category not linked to any killer diseases.”

Dosage: 300 to 400 g/day from complex carbohydrates, or about 1200 to 1600 kilocalories/day (out of an average total of 1800 to 2200 kilocalories/day). Ideally, 65 percent of a person’s caloric intake should be carbohydrates —55 percent from complex carbohydrates and starches and 10 percent from natural sugars such as those found in fruit. A minimum of 50 g/day are needed to prevent ketosis, an acidic condition of the blood. For best effect, carbohydrates should be taken with as little protein and fat as possible, as these slow down or hinder serotonin on its way to the brain.

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