Nutrition and Mental Alertness

Michal Slawski, Sector Manager Horticulture, Bord Bia – The Irish Food Board

A recent FMCG GURUS, report, “Understanding brain health concerns across the US and Europe” throws up some interesting trends in awareness and approaches to mental wellbeing.  A survey was conducted on a range of mental issues, from stress and general forgetfulness all the way up to dementia. While concern for memory and so on would traditionally have been associated with older age groups, but instead, in both the US and Europe it was found that younger age groups had the most concerns in this area(Consumers aged 25-34 years old US, Consumers aged between 18-24 years UK). In Europe, that means that when it comes to products positioned around aiding brain health, the key consumer demographic is likely to be younger adults adopting prevention over cure approach when it comes to brain health.

The EU has authorized health claims for a number of different vitamins and minerals that assist in this area. Although not exhaustive, some of the items covered would be the normal functioning of the nervous system (biotin, Vitamin C, Thiamine, Vitamins B12, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Riboflavin), contribution to normal physiological function (Vitamin C and B6, Biotin, Folate, magnesium, niacin, thiamin, vitamin B12,) contribution to normal cognitive function (iodine, iron, zinc) Calcium contributes to normal neurotransmission and pantothenic acid contributes to normal mental performance

This information has been taken on board by a number of functional drink companies in the UK, for example, ‘Think Drink’ and ‘Brain Füd’, which include a number of different vitamins in their formulation and promise to ‘sharpen the mind’ and ‘enhance alertness’. This is pitched as either enhanced performance or as nurturing yourself.

There are other ways of boosting your mental performance, and that’s by getting your 7-a-day. There are a number of Irish fruit and vegetables that can help you in this regard. Mushrooms, for instance, are a source of niacin (B3), Folate, and pantothenic acid (B %). Mushrooms for breakfast will set you on your way for peak mental performance during the day. A portion of strawberries supplies all of your daily vitamin C requirements – they are perfect to snack on at work. With Christmas coming up, Brussel sprouts are a good source of vitamin C and folate, as are cabbages which are also a source of thiamine (B1). Tomatoes are a source of vitamin C, peppers are a source of vitamin C and B6, and lettuce is a source of folate, so a lunchtime salad could really boost your afternoon performance.