Better nutrition is linked to improved mental and physical health: Study

Up your nutrition game as researchers have found a direct link between physical fitness, cognitive performance, and optimal nutrition.
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A healthy diet intake can't be ignored. Image courtesy: Unsplash
Team Health Shots Published: 19 Oct 2020, 07:45 pm IST
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Our parents and doctors have been emphasising on the importance of having a balanced diet which provides all the essential nutrients for a very long time. And if you still aren’t paying heed to their advice, then here’s something that will make you sit up and take notice. 

Recently, scientists discovered that getting the right nutrition not only fuels your body and improves fitness, but also gives you an edge mentally too.

A double-blind study, published this week in the journal Scientific Reports, examined the effectiveness of optimal nutrition and exercise to enhance fitness and cognitive performance among a population of active-duty men and women in the U.S. Air Force. 

Here’s how the study was conducted

Researchers divided the 148 study participants into two groups for 12 weeks. Both groups performed the same training program, which included a balanced exercise program comprising aerobic and resistance training for five days a week. In addition to the training program, one group was given a prototype nutritional drink, the other group received a placebo.

The study showed that exercise, along with the addition of a high-protein nutrition drink containing lutein, omega-3 fatty acids, phospholipids, vitamin D, and beta-hydroxy-beta-methyl butyrate (HMB), led to statistically significant changes to as compared to the exercise group alone.

“The physical and mental health benefits of exercise are well known, but this study demonstrates how optimal nutrition can help boost brain function as well,” said lead author, Chris Zwilling, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher.

Data was collected from 148 active-duty personnel, who drank two 8-ounce servings of the supplement (either active or placebo) every day, while also engaging five days a week in a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercise program that involved mission-relevant resistance and cardiovascular exercise routines. 

Your physical and mental well-being need to go hand-in-hand if you want to live long. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Also, read: Better mental and physical well-being is just a stroll in a park away, says study

Researchers evaluated the effects of combined nutrition and exercise regimens on strength, endurance, flexibility, heart functions, lean muscle mass, processing speed, working memory, problem-solving and reaction time.

“We are excited by the results because they provide critical insights into how simple dietary changes can make a big difference in helping people be as efficient and productive as possible in today’s world,” they said. 

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“These results confirm that by combining the right nutrition and exercise, people who are facing high-pressure situations can stay sharp physically and mentally when they need it most,” they added. 

“It is clear that nutrition is a critical component for developing and maintaining the physical and cognitive performance of the men and women in the U.S. Air Force,” said Adam Strang, Ph.D., and lead investigator with the Air Force Research Laboratory. 

“This research confirms that a nutritional supplement with the right nutrients can support and facilitate those improvements when paired with balanced exercise training. We hope to use this knowledge now and, in the future, to better prepare them for the complex and diverse mission sets they are facing.”

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