Words have certain meanings to different people, and even some words evoke an emotional image in the minds of people hearing them. Do you ever wonder why people get such emotional thoughts? It largely has to do with not only the way people are trained to understand certain words, or the environment/culture they grew up and live in, but also the significant factor is the structure of their gut/brain axis. This axis has been proven to have significant impacts on the health and look of the individual, but also how their brain processes information from all sources. For instance, when someone hears the word "business," what do you think comes to mind? To me, the first thing that comes to mind is that the person is probably ambitious, but also money-oriented. Do we think the same thing about someone who works for an employer as an employee? Probably not so much. I have been training myself to use words differently, and using different words to say the same thing. For instance, as described above, I say the word "operation" instead of "owning a business" because I have run into many people who may think that people who have a business may be financially rich or some other superficial characteristic. The same goes with over-used words in the lexicon of the culture you live in.
What If I told you I could help you to "even out" not only your mind, but also your body? Who would have thought they are both the same? Your head is attached to your body after all, isn't it? The Cartesian view (from 16th century philosopher Descartes) is that the mind is separate from the body, however this is from a time which had very limited scientific evidence for these claims, and science itself was not far off from the junk science of today: based mostly on belief without many substantive theories, but more ruled by political dogma to appeal to the masses. These masses are also majorly ruled by their emotions, and their emotions are mostly a product of their gut and brain health, because these two form what is called the "gut-brain axis."
It has long been suspected that the relative abundance of specific nutrients can affect cognitive processes and emotions. Newly described influences of dietary factors on neuronal function and synaptic plasticity have revealed some of the vital mechanisms that are responsible for the action of diet on brain health and mental function. Several gut hormones that can enter the brain, or that are produced in the brain itself, influence cognitive ability. In addition, well-established regulators of synaptic plasticity, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, can function as metabolic modulators, responding to peripheral signals such as food intake. Understanding the molecular basis of the effects of food on cognition will help us to determine how best to manipulate diet in order to increase the resistance of neurons to insults and promote mental fitness.
Although food has classically been perceived as a means to provide energy and building material to the body, its ability to prevent and protect against diseases is starting to be recognized. In particular, research over the past 5 years has provided exciting evidence for the influence of dietary factors on specific molecular systems and mechanisms that maintain mental function. For instance, a diet that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids is garnering appreciation for supporting cognitive processes in humans1 and upregulating genes that are important for maintaining synaptic function and plasticity in rodents2. In turn, diets that are high in saturated fat are becoming notorious for reducing molecular substrates that support cognitive processing and increasing the risk of neurological dysfunction in both humans3 and animals4. Although these studies emphasize an important effect of food on the brain, further work is necessary to determine the mechanisms of action and the conditions for therapeutic applications in humans.
Over thousands of years, diet, in conjunction with other aspects of daily living, such as exercise, has had a crucial role in shaping cognitive capacity and brain evolution (BOX 1). Advances in molecular biology have revealed the ability of food-derived signals to influence energy metabolism and synaptic plasticity and, thus, mediate the effects of food on cognitive function, which is likely to have been crucial for the evolution of the modern brain. Feeding habits have been intrinsically associated with the development of human civilization, as people’s choice of what to eat is influenced by culture, religion and society. The newly discovered effects of food on cognition are intriguing for the general public, as they might challenge preconceptions, and they attract substantial interest from the media. The fact that feeding is an intrinsic human routine emphasizes the power of dietary factors to modulate mental health not only at the individual level, but also at the collective, population-wide level. Here I discuss the effects of both internal signals that are associated with feeding and dietary factors on cell metabolism, synaptic plasticity and mental function (FIG. 1). Throughout I use the term cognition from a neurobiological perspective, to refer to the mental processes that are involved in acquiring knowledge and to the integration of these processes into the conscious aspect of emotions, which influences mood and has psychiatric manifestations5.
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