Examining Techniques for Measuring the Effects of Nutrients on Mental Performance and Mood State

European Journal of Nutrition. 2016 Jan 7 [Epub ahead of print]

Intake of specific nutrients has been linked to mental states and various indices of cognitive performance although the effects are often subtle and difficult to interpret. Measurement of so-called objective variables (e.g. reaction times) is often considered to be the gold standard for assessing outcomes in this field of research. It can however, be argued that data on subjective experience (e.g. mood) are also important and may enrich existing objective data. The aim of this review is to evaluate methods for measuring mental performance and mood, and considers the definition of subjective mood and the validity of measures of subjective experience. Furthermore this review addresses what constitutes a meaningful effect in relation to translating results from standardised questionnaires into assessments of mental factors affecting everyday life, with a specific focus on outcomes related to nutritional interventions. The proposed approach extends the traditional cognitive approach of using standard ‘objective’ measurements to also include the consumers’ subjective experiences in relation to food. The term ‘objective’ is used in this paper to refer to any data that are not dependent on a particular person’s perspective, i.e. unbiased. Thus, the most informative approach should involve collection and consideration of both objective and subjective data and where appropriate physiological measures.

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