Pioneer with us to explore the effects of diet and food components on mental performance

Background

The rise of the elderly population due to demographic change and the resulting impact on health cannot be overlooked. Technological and systemic innovation together with adequate nutrition can improve the quality of life of elderly people and create new opportunities for scientific research. This has brought about an increased focus on nutrition and its relationship with maintenance of cognitive performance and understanding of cognitive decline.

Upcoming

The task force is organising a 3rd workshop on ‘Nutrition for the Ageing Brain’ to be held on 30-31 August 2018 in Madrid, Spain. This workshop will focus on clinical, metabolic and physiological aspects.

What’s New

The proceedings of the 1st workshop on ‘Nutrition for the Ageing Brain: Towards Evidence for an Optimal Diet’ held in July 2014 in Milan, Italy, have been recently published in Ageing Research Reviews (D. Vauzour et al., 2017).

The new Expert Group on ‘Implications of Food Components Interactions for Research Design: Guiding Principles for Studying Effects of Multi-Component Combinations on Brain Functions’, aims to increase awareness and understanding of the interactions of nutrients on brain functions, and to provide clear substantiation when designing future studies investigating the impact of multi-component combinations on brain functions.

The task force is planning to organise a joint session on the ‘Gut-Brain Axis’ during the 40th European Congress for Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) Congress, in September 2018, Madrid, Spain, with the task forces on Nutrition, Immunity & Inflammation, Prebiotics and Probiotics.

Objectives

  • The Nutrition and Mental Performance Task Force aims to:Contribute to drive scientific knowledge on the effects of diet and food components on mental performance and cognitive decline;
  • Increase awareness of the importance of nutrition for the maintenance of brain functions across the lifespan.

Impact

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). Publications focus on methodology and assessment, as well as different population groups from children to the elderly.

The publication on ‘Examining Techniques for Measuring the Effects of Nutrients on Subjective Mental Performance and Mood State’ (M. Hamer et al., 2016), has been downloaded more than 1.400 times.

The first two workshops of the series ‘Nutrition for the Ageing Brain’ attracted 90 participants each. Presentations can be downloaded from ILSI Europe’s website.

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

Task Force Members


* Scientific Advisor

Expert Groups

3rd Workshop – NEW
Nutrition for the Ageing Brain, 30-31 August 2018, Madrid, Spain

Objectives

Decline on cognitive abilities with age occurs in healthy individuals and spreads through adult lifespan. The mechanisms contributing to normal ageing, including oxidative stress, neuroinflammation and vascular dysfunction are the same as those contributing to the development of neurological diseases. However, in pathological conditions these mechanisms become exacerbated, triggered by different factors which might be genetic or environmental. Despite a wealth of data on how nutrients and diets may support cognitive functions and preserve brain health, the therapeutic and pharmacological potential of these natural compounds still remains to be fully translated in humans and in clinical conditions.

Activity

The workshop will take place on 30-31 August 2018. The purpose of the workshop is to convene experts to discuss and debate the potential for maintaining cognitive function through dietary intake. This workshop will specifically focus on clinical aspects and novel strategies developed to determine whether diet and nutrients have efficacy in individuals affected by dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions.

Main themes to be addressed:

  • Impact of nutrition on brain functions using neuroimaging technologies;
  • Microbiome and immune status: impact on brain function;
  • Biomarkers of food intake and cognitive health;
  • Sleep deprivation: effects on diet and cognitive performance;
  • New methodologies applied to dementia and how nutrition could play a role.

Implications of Food Component Interactions for Research Design: Guiding Principles for Studying Effects of Multi-Component Combinations on Brain Functions – NEW

Objectives

Effects of food on brain functions are mostly seen from nutrient combinations rather than from isolated nutrients. Although available information related to individual food bioactives and their effects on brain function is currently expanding, clear guidance and evidence for a multi-component combination approach is currently lacking. Much of the scientific interest and efforts on the effects of nutrition on brain function have focused on increasing understanding of the role of individual nutrients. However, it might be speculated that effects of nutrients can be seriously underestimated by disregarding potential interactions with other components. The aim of this activity is to increase understanding and raise awareness of the interactions of nutrients on brain functions, and to generate consensus on how these should help guide research.

Activity

This activity will provide clear substantiation and evidence when designing future studies aiming at investigating the impact of multi-component combinations on brain functions. For this activity, it is proposed that in vivo studies (animals and humans) conducted on the impact of individual food bioactives on brain functions will be used to identify potential cellular and molecular targets, which can then be used to create a list of genes/signalling pathways. Bioinformatic tools will be employed to evaluate and create a list of the most promising food bioactive combinations to be assessed in future clinical studies.

Expected Output

This project is expected to deliver a peer-reviewed publication that provides robust guiding principles on good scientific practise for the study of multi-component interventions for brain health. In particular, these guiding principles will be based on the identification of complementary molecular mechanisms underlying their beneficial effects on brain functions.

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 in a systematic review. 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 provide a guidance document for future studies in this area.

Series of Workshops ‘Nutrition for the Ageing Brain’

Until now no major health organisation has given preventive dietary recommendations for preserving brain health and cognition. Further, it has not been 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 by organising a series of workshops on this topic. These workshops are organised on a two-year basis and attract high-level experts from different countries including industry representatives, renowned scientists from major universities and institutes, as well as key stakeholders such as the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (EC JRC) and representatives of the Joint Programming Initiative ‘A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life’ (JPI HDHL).

The 1st workshop on Nutrition for the Ageing Brain: Towards Evidence for an Optimal Diet was held in June 2014 and aimed to define mechanisms and timeframes of brain ageing and identify when neuroprotection via nutrition can begin. The resulting publication ‘Nutrition for the Ageing Brain: Towards Evidence for an Optimal Diet’ was published in Ageing Research Reviews (D. Vauzour et al., 2016).

A 2nd follow-up workshop was organised in June 2016 focusing on recent findings and new developments. Special attention was paid to functional aspects and strategies.

The task force is currently working on the 3rd workshop to be held in 30-31 August 2018 that will consider clinical, metabolic and physiological aspects.

2nd Workshop
Nutrition for the Ageing Brain: Functional Aspects and Strategies, 30 June – 1st July 2016, Copenhagen, Denmark

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 on 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 through dietary intake. 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 have been summarised and submitted in Ageing Research Reviews.

Expert Group Members

3rd Workshop Organising Committee – ‘Nutrition for the Ageing Brain’

Implications of Food Component Interactions for Research Design: Guiding Principles for Studying Effects of Multi-Component Combinations on Brain Functions – NEW

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

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

*Former ILSI Europe staff

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

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