Young Adult - Food for the Brain

Young Adult

Introduction

18-30 is a life stage full of transition and change, characterised by the independence and autonomy which comes with being an emerging adult. The brain continues to develop until the mid or even late twenties, particularly the areas of the brain responsible for reasoning and decision making, as well as emotional regulation. 

Risk Factors during 18-30’s

Most mental health conditions emerge and are diagnosed during late adolescence. Depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia are the most common mental illnesses identified during late adolescence. 75% of all diagnosis of mental illnesses occurs by age 24. During early adulthood, as well as anxiety and depression remaining prevalent, personality disorders may also be diagnosed. It should be noted here the strong link between personality disorder development, and child abuse. Early intervention in the form of psychological support is crucial, and NICE states that 50% of patients who receive such support for one of the most common personality disorders, BPD, no longer fit the criteria of the condition within 5-10 years post diagnosis.

Individuals with an increased susceptibility to developing mental illnesses include those experiencing:

Nutritional Considerations

Important nutritional considerations for the 18-30’s life stage will be discussed in this section. 

B Vitamins

The group of 8 water soluble B vitamins are vital to brain health, they have been found to have an effect on multiple aspects of brain function and strongly correlated to mental health . Multiple B vitamins play a role in pathways linked to depression through glutamate and GABA systems, as well as serotonin and dopamine mechanisms. Folate and B12 are needed for the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, neurotransmitters in the brain help to regulate the body’s stress response and also mood

Omega 3 

Omega 3 supports brain health, via increasing brain cell production and communication, and reducing inflammation. Omega 3 also modulates, GABA, serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation, due to increasing beneficial bacteria strains in the gut, which synthesise these neurotransmitters. 

Fibre and Probiotics

Recent research has highlighted a link between the gut microbiome and the brain. Higher intakes of fibre and probiotics have been shown to regulate the gut microbiota and improve brain health. The gut and brain are linked through the central nervous system as well as by chemicals produced by the gut, called neurotransmitters, impact brain health through regulating mood and mental wellbeing. The gut has been shown to produce neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, that have a direct impact on mood. The gut can also produce gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which can help modulate fear and anxiety. Research into the gut and brain highlight the key role of a healthy gut in optimising brain health, nutrients such as probiotics and prebiotics help to produce good gut flora that promote chemical release to the brain .

Zinc, Magnesium & Iron

Zinc, magnesium and iron work together synergistically in the brain to reduce oxidative stress. This may help to reduce inflammation, an important consideration for supporting healthy brain ageing and also mental wellbeing, as many chronic diseases and mental illnesses include inflammation as a key feature in their development. 

Researcher: Ellie Winch, MSc Global Public Health Nutrition (University of Westminster), BSc Nutrition (Bournemouth University).

Technical Reviewer: Alice Benskin, MSc Personalised Nutrition

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