Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract on Cognitive Functions in Healthy, Stressed Adults
Bengaluru Neuro Centre (India), December 26, 2021
The global prevalence of stress is increasing. Stress adversely affects cognitive ability, sleep quality, and overall psychological well-being. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal), an essential medicine in Ayurveda, is reportedly beneficial in reducing stress and improving memory. This double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study evaluated the effect of Ashwagandha root extract sustained-release capsule 300 mg (hereafter Ashwagandha SR) on cognitive functions, stress levels, sleep quality, overall well-being, and safety in stressed subjects.
In this first reported clinical study assessing the “sustained-release formulation” of Ashwagandha root extract, we demonstrated that consumption of Ashwagandha SR capsules for 90 days resulted in improved memory and focus, psychological well-being, and sleep quality and reduced stress levels. We also showed that Ashwagandha SR capsules were safe when administered over the period of 90 days. Thus, these capsules can be used in a single daily dose as an effective adaptogen to improve cognitive abilities and reduce stress in otherwise healthy adults
Social stress messes up the hippocampus
Polish Academy of Sciences, December 3, 2021
How do you feel when you are stuck in a traffic jam for hours? Or when you are late for a flight? Or when you are waiting at the university hall to pass an exam? Obviously, you feel stressed, which might endanger your hippocampus according to a research paper recently published in PLOS One by Stankiewicz and colleagues.
A large body of research has clearly shown that stress, especially when repeated and unpredictable, is capable of modifying the structure and the activity of neuronal circuits. In fact, stress is a risk factor for many mood-related disorders such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. Adaptive and maladaptive modifications take place in our brain to counteract stressors and these modifications could lead to severe mental pathologies. One of the most vulnerable structures of the brain is the hippocampus, a brain region greatly involved in learning and memory functions.
Stress responses have been correlated with altered inflammatory functions; for example, infiltration of leukocytes in the brain of socially defeated mice has been reported. As such, Stankiewicz and colleagues searched for potential modifications in expression of brain-inflammation markers in hippocampi from stressed mice.
Thankfully, good news also came out from this study. We all have experienced the pleasant effects of rest following stressful periods; in fact, Stankiewicz and colleagues found that after 5 days of recovery from a protocol of chronic stress most of the altered genes had returned to basal levels, suggesting that maladaptive modifications are indeed reversible. This finding reinforces the idea that our brain is able to adapt to any circumstances, healthy or unhealthy, and that our life style could sometimes be the best cure to our messed up brains.
Healthy diet in early pregnancy reduces risk of gestational diabetes
University of Turku (Finland), December 29, 2021
A healthy, comprehensive diet that lowers the body's inflammation reduces the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus, reveals a new study from the University of Turku in Finland.
Obesity is a significant risk factor for developing gestational diabetes mellitus, and an increasing number of pregnant women are overweight or obese. Dietary habits have an impact on both obesity and the onset of gestational diabetes mellitus.
The research results show that following a healthy diet in early pregnancy reduces the risk of gestational diabetes. The study also found that a higher dietary inflammatory index, meaning a diet that increases the low-grade inflammatory markers in the body was connected to an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes mellitus. Furthermore, a higher consumption of fat and especially saturated fats was connected to gestational diabetes. This is of interest as the intake of saturated fats is known to increase the body's inflammation.
Eating vegetables, fruit, berries, and wholegrain products as well as unsaturated fats is particularly important. These nutrients and foods reduce inflammation in the body and therefore also the risk of gestational diabetes.
Intake of magnesium associated with improvements in blood sugar, insulin sensitivity in meta-analysis
University of Palermo (Italy), December 24, 2021
Magnesium intake may help improve blood sugar (glucose) metabolism among people with diabetes and those who are at high risk of developing the disease, according to findings from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials reported in the journal Nutrients.
Magnesium [intake] appears to have a beneficial role and improves glucose parameters in people with diabetes,” the authors concluded. “Moreover, our work indicates that magnesium [intake] may improve insulin-sensitivity parameters in those at high risk of diabetes.”
Their research suggests that magnesium intake may boost glucose utilization by the cells, particularly in those who have not developed full-fledged diabetes. Studies have also indicated that magnesium decreases factors that contribute to insulin resistance, including oxidative stress and inflammation.
Compared to a placebo, intake of magnesium was associated with significantly lower fasting plasma glucose levels in trials that included diabetic participants.
Nighttime electronic device use lowers melatonin levels
Brigham and Women's Hospital, December 24 2021.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science published the findings researchers at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital of a suppressive effect for evening use of light-emitting electronic devices on sleep and melatonin secretion.
"Electronic devices emit light that is short-wavelength-enriched light, which has a higher concentration of blue light -- with a peak around 450 nm -- than natural light," explained lead author Anne-Marie Chang. "This is different from natural light in composition, having a greater impact on sleep and circadian rhythms."
Twelve healthy adults were randomized to read a light-emitting eBook or a printed book in dim room light approximately four hours before bedtime for five evenings. At the end of the five day period, participants switched their assignments. eBook reading was associated with more time needed to fall asleep and less rapid eye movement sleep in comparison with reading a printed book. Evening melatonin levels were suppressed by an average of 55.12% in eBook readers, while those who read printed books had no suppression. Compared to printed book reading, the onset of melatonin release in response to dim light occurred 1 ½ hours later the day following reading of an eBook.
Mediterranean diet plus olive oil or nuts associated with improved cognitive function
Institute of Biomedical Investigations (Barcelona Spain), December 11, 2021
Supplementing the plant-based Mediterranean diet with antioxidant-rich extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts was associated with improved cognitive function in a study of older adults in Spain but the authors warn more investigation is needed, according to an article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.
Emerging evidence suggests associations between dietary habits and cognitive performance. Oxidative stress (the body's inability to appropriately detoxify itself) has long been considered to play a major role in cognitive decline. Previous research suggests following a Mediterranean diet may relate to better cognitive function and a lower risk of dementia. However, the observational studies that have examined these associations have limitations, according to the study background.
The study found that individuals assigned to the low-fat control diet had a significant decrease from baseline in all composites of cognitive function. Compared with the control group, the memory composite improved significantly in the Mediterranean diet plus nuts, while the frontal and global cognition composites improved in the Mediterranean diet plus olive oil group. The authors note the changes for the two Mediterranean diet arms in each composite were more like each other than when comparing the individual Mediterranean diet groups with the low-fat diet control group.