Agri-Food Trade Service
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The relationship between mental health and nutrition
August 27, 2010
The relationship between health and nutrition has attracted significant amounts of attention over the past few years. Media has been covering obesity rates, industry and consumer groups have become increasingly involved in concerns about obesity and nutrition in North America, while government has also been examining issues surrounding this topic. Requests for 'healthier' food offerings, increased nutrition labelling, advertising restrictions, and taxes are among several measures that have been suggested to improve 'health' and manage what some have called an 'obesity or health epidemic'.
Industry has responded by offering healthier, 'better for you' food options. They are working to reduce the amount of salt, trans fats, and calories, both in retail and foodservice. There have also been numerous articles, research, and reports pointing toward consumers paying more attention to the ingredients and nutrition labelling on the foods they are buying and consuming.
With all of this interest in obesity, another focus, also related to health and nutrition, is increasingly being mentioned by industry and associations: mental health and performance. Recently, the idea of nutrition playing a role in mental health has appeared several times in the media sources that we continually monitor in our work at ATS. A recent audio podcast by Stephen Daniells from Nutraingredients involved speaking with experts from Europe who were presenting at educational sessions at Vitafoods (a global nutraceutical event). These experts were involved in research being done on boosting mental and cognitive performance through diet and supplements, ranging from coffee and caffeine, to fruit extracts such as flavonoids. Coffee, was also mentioned to be increasingly perceived by consumers as more health and wellness-related.
Research regarding the impact of mental and cognitive performance involved a wide-range of topics, such as sustained attention, reaction time, neuroprotective properties that may reduce the development of Alzheimer's and Dementia later in life, memory, and learning. The podcast also mentions that cognitive health is predicted to become a hot trend for the functional food, beverage, and supplement industries.
The mental and cognitive benefits of Omega-3s, vitamins, and herbs are also among current research. In another audio podcast by Stephen Daniells, the subject of a declining intake of Omega-3 fatty acids and the increase in the incidence of brain disorders was discussed. Professor Michael Crawford, the director of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition at the London Metropolitan University, spoke of how a shift away from a focus on calories, towards healthy brain growth is needed to aid in managing the increase in brain disorders.
Given the impact that increased obesity and health media coverage has had on the industry, it will be interesting to see if a focus on mental and cognitive performance and nutrition continues to garner attention among media, consumers, and policy makers. The resulting influence that this may have on the industry will also be something to keep an eye on; particularly as the functional food market has already shown noticeable growth and continues to look promising. According to Euromonitor, global fortified/functional food and beverage retail value grew 40.5% from 2004 to 2009 and is expected to grow another 20% in the next five years to reach US$207 billion. Naturally healthy food and beverage market growth also very closely mirrors the fortified/functional market.
However, as of now the future is undecided, with little existence of mental/cognitive health claims in either the European or North American markets. Consumer interest and adoption of this topic may hinge on the abundance of concrete scientific results, and continued media coverage and interest from all sectors. This will definitely be an interesting market to watch as researchers, consumers, policy makers, and industry grapple with the growing topic of brain health, and its influence on nutrition and food.
Agri-Food Trade Service
Kayo // 1-July-11
"Glad I've finally found sotmheing I agree with!"
Alexis // 22-January-2012
"Would it be okay to reference this post in my Weblog?"
Reply (ATS Content
Manager) // 23-January-2012
"ATS answer - Yes of course. We appreciate you putting our research to good use."
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