Pioneer with us in scientific knowledge on the effects of diet and food components on mental performance

Background

There is an increased interest in the impact of food or nutrients on brain function, cognition and mental performance. The elderly population and thus, age-related cognitive decline is on the rise. This led to an interest in foods that optimise neurodevelopment and reduce risk of cognitive decline.

Objectives

In this increasingly important field, the Nutrition and Mental Performance Task Force aims to pioneer and drive scientific knowledge on the effects of diet and food components on mental performance as well as to increase awareness of the importance of nutrition for brain functions across the lifespan.

Impact

Since its formation in 2004, the task force has produced 10 peer-reviewed papers. Publications focus on methodology and assessment, as well as different population groups from children to the elderly. The task force primarily examined the generally healthily ageing population beginning to experience early mental declines.

The task force has laid the groundwork for researchers interested in the brain effects of food and nutrients and has disseminated globally the possibilities offered by emerging technologies, such as brain imaging, to indicate early effects of nutrition (S.V. Sizonenko et al., 2013).

The 1st workshop on Nutrition for the Ageing Brain held in Milan, Italy, July 2014, increased awareness of the relevance of nutrition in healthy brain ageing. The workshop was very successful and attracted 90 people. Based on its success, the task force organised a 2nd workshop in Copenhagen, Denmark, 30 June – 1 July 2016.

What’s New

  • New Publication on ‘Examining Techniques for Measuring the Effects of Nutrients on Subjective Mental Performance and Mood State’ (M. Hamer et al., 2016).
  • The task force is working on a new activity proposal on ‘Nutrient Interactions: Implications for Effects on Brain Function and Research Directions’. The aim of this activity would be to increase understanding and raise awareness of the interactions of nutrients on brain functions, to generate consensus on how this should help guide research on nutritional effects on brain function and what consequences this might have for nutrient / nutritional research approaches (as opposed to pharma research), e.g. on the type of evidence needed for effects of individual nutrients or combinations of nutrients, meals or complex nutritional products.

For more detailed information, please contact Dr Lucie Geurts at lgeurts@ilsieurope.be.

Task Force Members

Dr Sophie Miquel-Kergoat – Chair Wrigley UK
Dr David Vauzour – Co-Chair University of East Anglia UK
Mr Alejandro Barranco Abbott Nutrition ES
Dr Eva Hoberg-Scholz Merck DE
Dr Tami Mackle Pfizer Consumer Healthcare US
Dr Lourdes Mata PepsiCo International UK
Dr Hasan Mohajeri DSM CH
Dr Amy Pooler Nestlé CH
Dr Caroline Saunders Lucozade Ribena Suntory UK
Dr John Sijben Danone NL
Dr Berenike Stracke Schwabegroup DE
Dr Lucie Geurts ILSI Europe BE

Expert Groups

A Review of Plant-Based Ingredients and their Cognitive Benefits with a Focus on their Likely Mechanisms of Action

Objectives

There is increasing interest in plant-based ingredients that may improve cognitive performance and prevent or reverse cognitive function decline during adulthood. Despite several reviews in this area which focus on specific compounds and / or ingredients, a collective review of these ingredients and their mechanisms of action is missing. Furthermore, there is a lack of consideration of combinations of ingredients / compounds (in the context of a normal diet) and their potential additive, synergistic or antagonistic effects on cognitive function. The objective of this activity will thus be to produce such a review.

Activity

This activity has brought together a group of experts to summarise and evaluate the current literature relating to plant-based ingredients, their constituents and cognitive performance; to consider combinations of ingredients / compounds (in the context of a normal diet) and their potential synergies; and to provide an in-depth focus on their proposed mechanisms of action. Furthermore, they will critically evaluate the findings in an attempt to provide guidance on the most effective ingredients and combinations thereof.

Expected Output

The review will provide guidance on the ingredients upon which future research activities should focus as well as limitations of existing research to help identify the knowledge gaps that need to be addressed. Conclusions of this activity will also be very useful for a further activity which could address the inconsistencies in existing studies to help provide a guidance document for future studies in this area.

1st WORKSHOP

‘Nutrition for the Ageing Brain: Toward Evidence for an Optimal Diet’, 3-4 July 2014, Milan (IT)

Objectives

Up to now no major health organisation has given preventive dietary recommendations for preserving brain health and cognition or has stated definitively that specific nutrients help maintain brain function during ageing. The task force embarked on this project to review the evidence supporting how nutrients, food and diet influence brain health.

Activity

The workshop on ‘Nutrition for the Ageing Brain: Towards an Optimal Diet’ aimed to define mechanisms and timeframes of brain ageing and identify when neuroprotection via nutrition can begin. Five themes were addressed during this event:
•    Setting the stage for nutrition of ageing brains;
•    Mechanisms of ageing and neuroprotection via nutrients;
•    Individual variation in maintaining brain health;
•    Cognition and diet;
•    Methodological challenges – finding solutions.

This workshop attracted 90 high-level experts from 15 countries including industry representatives, renowned scientists from major universities and institutes, as well as key stakeholders such as the European Commission – Joint Research Centre (JRC) and representatives of the Joint Programming Initiative ‘A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life’ (JPI HDHL).

Output

The key recommendations for maintenance of cognitive function throughout the lifespan are avoiding health conditions like obesity, anaemia, diabetes and heart disease in midlife, since these will contribute to faster brain ageing and increased risk of dementia. Additionally, nutrition recommendations of many countries are reflective of peripheral needs and may not be enough for the high energy and specific nutrient demands of the brain. Thus, it is increasingly important to build on our understanding of which nutrients need to be boosted, especially during ageing when nutrient absorption declines. There are massive opportunities for nutritional products and optimal diets but these need to be translated into clear preventive guidelines to maintain cognitive function during ageing. The resulting publication ‘Nutrition for the Ageing Brain: Towards Evidence for an Optimal Diet’ has been published in Ageing Research Reviews.

A follow-up workshop was organised focusing on recent findings and new developments. Special attention was paid to functional aspects and strategies (see hereafter).

2nd WORKSHOP 

‘Nutrition for the Ageing Brain: Functional Aspects and Strategies’, 30 June – 1st July 2016, Copenhagen (DK)

Objectives

Ageing is a highly complex process marked by sequential events that promote alterations in the normal functioning of individuals over time and that include many common chronic neurodegenerative diseases. The precise cause of the neuronal degeneration underlying these disorders, and indeed normal brain ageing, remain elusive. So far, the majority of existing drug treatments for neurodegenerative disorders are unable to prevent the underlying degeneration of neurons.

Consequently, there is a desire to address these challenges by developing alternative strategies to prevent the detrimental effects of brain ageing, such as the use of nutritional interventions.

Despite a wealth of data on how nutrients and diets may support cognitive function and preserve brain health, the biological mechanisms underlying this relationship remain largely unknown.

Activity

The workshop took place from 30 June – 1 July 2016 as a satellite event to the Federation of European Neurosciences meeting (FENS Forum 2016) in Copenhagen, Denmark. The purpose of the workshop was to convene experts to discuss and debate the potential for maintaining cognitive function via diet. This workshop specifically focused on functional aspects and strategies.

Five themes were addressed during this event:
•    Mechanisms of ageing and impact of nutrients;
•    New avenues in cognitive ageing and nutrition;
•    Challenges in investigating the role of nutrition on cognitive performance;
•    Multi-component and multi-domain interventions;
•    Relevance to public health.

The main conclusion of the workshop was that several mechanisms underline the ageing process including several dietary parameters. Complexity of the ageing process needs to be addressed, either by multi-nutrient combinations or by identifying new products or molecules with targeted biological activities.

Output

The five main themes addressed and the related discussions are being summarised for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.

Measuring and Validating the Subjective Effects of Food on Mood and Mental Performance – Completed

Objectives

While subjective experience is a component of evaluations for health claims on psychological function, self-report (a subjective measure) is not considered as a substantial scientific measure for certain cognitive responses. The objective of this project was to evaluate if validating subjective measures are associated with a response of longer-term health relevance.

Activity

The experts addressed differences between subjective and objective measures as related to mental performance. They covered several dimensions of mood, validity of the measures, early detection of a meaningful health effect, the meaning of no detection of effect and best practices for tool selection and interpretation, among other themes.

Output

The review proposes foundational principles for measuring the effects of food on mood and subjective mental performance, and means by which subjective consumer perception can be linked to longer-term, positive health outcomes, beyond mood itself.

Expert Group Members

A Review of Plant-Based Ingredients and their Cognitive Benefits with a Focus on their Likely Mechanisms of Action

Prof. Keith Wesnes – Chair Northumbria University UK
Dr Caroline Saunders – Vice-Chair Lucozade Ribena Suntory UK
Ms Claire Champ University of Leeds UK
Dr Martijn De Wilde Danone NL
Prof. Louise Dye University of Leeds UK
Dr Crystal Haskell-Ramsay University of Northumbria UK
Dr Sophie Miquel-Kergoat Wrigley US
Dr Hasan Mohajeri DSM CH
Dr María Ramírez Abbott Nutrition ES
Prof. Wim Riedel Maastricht University NL
Mr Andrea Zangara Swinburne University AU
Dr Lucie Geurts ILSI Europe BE

1st WORKSHOP ORGANISING COMMITTEE – ‘Nutrition for the Ageing Brain: Toward Evidence for an Optimal Diet’, 3-4 July 2014, Milan (IT)

Dr David Vauzour – Chair University of East Anglia UK
Dr Siobhan Mitchell* – Vice-Chair Nestlé CH
Dr Pascale Barberger-Gateau INSERM FR
Dr Sophie Miquel-Kergoat Wrigley US
Prof. Ugo Lucca Mario Negri Institute Pharmacology Research IT
Dr Lionel Noah* Sanofi-Aventis R&D FR
Dr María Ramírez Abbott Nutrition ES
Dr John Sijben Danone NL
Dr Maurits Vandewoude University of Antwerp BE
Prof. Keith Wesnes Northumbria University UK
Dr Stéphane Vidry ILSI Europe BE

2nd WORKSHOP ORGANISING COMMITTEE – ‘Nutrition for the Ageing Brain: Functional Aspects and Strategies’, 30 June – 1st July 2016, Copenhagen (DK)

Dr. David Vauzour – Chair University of East Anglia UK
Dr Sophie Miquel-Kergoat – Vice-Chair Wrigley US
Dr Jonathan Farrimond Lucozade Ribena Suntory UK
Prof. Miia Kivipelto University of Stockholm SE
Dr Hasan Mohajeri DSM CH
Dr John Sijben Danone NL
Prof. Jeremy Spencer University of Reading UK
Dr Sandrine Thuret King’s College London UK
Mr Wim Vanden Berghe University of Antwerp BE
Mr Jeroen Schuermans* University of Antwerp BE
Dr Lucie Geurts ILSI Europe BE
Dr Stéphane Vidry ILSI Europe BE

*Former ILSI Europe staff

Measuring and Validating the Subjective Effects of Food on Mood and Mental Performance – Completed

Dr Mark Hamer – Chair University College London UK
Dr Neil Boyle University of Leeds UK
Prof. Louise Dye University of Leeds UK
Prof. Sophie Layé National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA) FR
Dr Siobhan Mitchell* PepsiCo International CH
Prof. Peter Rogers University of Bristol UK
Dr Caroline Saunders* Lucozade Ribena Suntory UK
Dr John Sijben Danone NL
Mr Jeroen Schuermans ILSI Europe BE

*Dr Siobhan Mitchell was formerly affiliated with Nestlé, Dr Caroline Saunders was formerly affiliated with PepsiCo International during some of the activities of this expert group

Posters

Tests of cognitive function: criteria for validation and considerations for investigating the effects of foods and nutrients in ageing
Assessing the Impact of Nutrition on Children’s Cognition

The measurement of Diet-induced Changes in Cognition: Methodological Aspects

Recommendations for long-term nutritional intervention studies on cognitive function

Publications

All Publications

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