Red and White Ginseng

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Dietary Sources of GABA

weight lossGamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid neurotransmitter found in the brains of mammals and other animals. GABA is synthesised by humans and is therefore not essential in the diet. GABA is an amino acid, but it is not incorporated into protein, instead it has a specialised role as a neurotransmitter in the brain and central nervous system. The role of GABA is highly complex, but in general terms the neurotransmitter is involved in decreasing excitatory pathways in the brain, and in this way has a calming influence of mood. When released from neurones, GABA binds to the GABAA receptor on adjacent neurones and this causes the opening of chloride channels. This lowers the membrane potential of the neurones and reduces the chance that an action potential will fire. By doing this the neuronal activity of the brain is reduced. Benzodiazepine drugs bind to the GABAA receptors and mimic the effects of GABA in animals and humans, and this is the basis of their therapeutic use to treat anxiety.

gaba anxiety mood

Sourdough bread is sour because of the presence of acids from acid forming bacteria. These bacteria can also synthesised GABA from glutamic acid, via the enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase. Sourdough bread therefore has high levels of GABA compared to other bread. Other food that undergo fermentation steps by acid forming bacteria may also contain high amounts of GABA.

There are a number of ways to obtain GABA from the diet naturally and a number of dietary components that can mimic its effects. These methods are not associated with the same levels of side effects as seen with pharmaceutical drugs and they involve eating foods. One of the best ways to obtain GABA from the diet is to eat foods that have been fermented by acid producing bacteria. This is based on the fact that GABA can be synthesised by microorganisms undergoing fermentation. As with humans, microorganisms synthesise GABA from another amino acid called glutamic acid, and this reaction is catalysed by the glutamate decarboxylase enzyme. Optimal synthesis of GABA by microorganisms in foods therefore occurs at optimal conditions for this enzyme. The acid forming bacteria such as lactobacillus are the major GABA producing microorganisms. Sourdough bread is a a high acid bread that has been shown to contain high amounts of GABA due to the fermentation that occurs during its manufacture.

Therefore fermented foods tend to contain higher amounts of GABA that non-fermented foods. Other examples of fermented foods that contain GABA include kefir, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh and yogurt. As with sourdough, the GABA forms because of the fermentation processes that occurs during the manufacture of these foods. GABA tea is a special form of tea that contains higher concentrations of GABA compared to normal tea. The GABA content of any tea can be increased by allowing fermentation to occur within the tea leaves. All ters contains some GABA as both glutamic acid and the enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase are present in tea leaves. A special fermentation step, under conditions of low oxygen is able to significantly increase the synthesis of GABA, producing a high GABA tea. Studies have investigated the GABA content of GABA tea and shown that it contains nearly 4 times more GABA than other teas such as Pu-erh tea, green tea, black tea and oolong tea.  

gaba anxiety mood

Flavonoids can activate the GABA receptor. Tea is a good source of flavonoids, and is particularly rich in flavonoid belonging to the subgroups flavan-3-ols and flavonols. Flavan-3-ols and flavanols may activate the GABAA receptor in the same way as the benzodiazepine drugs, causing a general calming effect in the brain. They may therefore be an effective treatment for anxiety related disorders.

Another dietary strategy to take advantage of the GABA neurotransmitter system is to consume a diet high in flavonoids. Flavonoids may have a particular affinity for the GABAA receptor and may activate the receptor in the same ways as the benzodiazepine drugs. Experimental evidence suggests that certain flavonoids may displace diazepam from its binding site on the GABAA receptor. Therefore flavonoids appear to have an affinity for the receptor that is higher than diazepam in some cases. Activation of the GABAA receptor by flavonoids has been evidenced and this action can be blocked by the GABAA inhibitor flumazenil. The flavones, which include apigenin, luteolin and chrysin, appear to have a particularly high affinity for the GABAA receptor, which may explain the anti-anxiety effects of herbs containing high amounts of flavones. High flavonoid foods such as tea, chocolate, berries and wine may therefore have the potential to activate the GABA system and induce significant anxiolytic effects.

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Dhakal, R., Bajpai, V. K. and Baek, K. H. 2012. Production of GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) by microorganisms: a review. Brazilian Journal of Microbiology. 43(4): 1230-1241
Rizzello, C. G., Cassone, A., Di Cagno, R. and Gobbetti, M. 2008. Synthesis of angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE)-inhibitory peptides and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) during sourdough fermentation by selected lactic acid bacteria. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 56(16): 6936-6943
Syu, K. Y., Lin, C. L., Huang, H. C. and Lin, J. K. 2008. Determination of theanine, GABA, and other amino acids in green, oolong, black, and Pu-erh teas with dabsylation and high-performance liquid chromatography. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 56(17), 7637-7643
Zhao, M., Ma, Y., Wei, Z. Z., Yuan, W. X., Li, Y. L., Zhang, C. H., Xue, X. and Zhou, H. J. 2011. Determination and comparison of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) content in pu-erh and other types of Chinese tea. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 59(8): 3641-3648
Hanrahan, J. R., Chebib, M. and Johnston, G. A. 2011. Flavonoid modulation of GABAA receptors. British Journal of Pharmacology. 163(2): 234-245
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Does Caffeine Increase Anxiety?

weight lossEvidence suggests that tea is able to cause a calming effect in the minutes after it is drunk. However, tea contains caffeine, and caffeine has been shown to be an anxiogenic agent in mammals. This apparently paradoxical situation is explainable because tea contains other compounds that may have mood elevating effects. For example, tea also contains L-theanine and catechin flavonoids, both of which have been shown to reduce anxiety. The L-theanine in tea may also be able to antagonise the physiological effects of caffeine. For example, administration of 200 mg L-theanine has been shown to antagonise the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine. Further, some evidence suggests that the effects of caffeine on mood are not simple. Some evidence for example, suggests that under certain circumstances, caffeine can reduce anxiety in some individuals. Experimentally induced anxiety following alcohol consumption has been shown to be be antagonised by caffeine administration in mice.

coffee caffeine anxiety

Administration of caffeine to healthy subjects at 150 mg and 300 mg of caffeine per 45.4 kg body weight significantly increased depression, anxiety and hostility compared to a placebo. The researchers also noted that the timing of the measurements in the post consumption phase of the experiment were pivotal, as the mental effects of caffeine have a narrow window of effect and it would be easy to miss the mood altering effects by mistiming the observations. Some evidence also suggests that coffee consumption may be more problematic for males, with one study showing that male but not female subject experienced significant anxiety from coffee consumption.

However, coffee consumption is associated with mental stress. For example, in one study researchers administered caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, tea, diet cola, cola, as well as tap water or sparkling water to healthy subjects. The results showed that caffeine consumption causes significant improvements in alertness, reactions times and memory, but also increased the anxiety experienced by the subjects. In another study, 60 mg of caffeine from a cup of coffee has a significant influence on mood and performance. The 60 mg of caffeine from coffee significantly improved a number of aspects of performance including reaction times and mental processing, but also increase tension in the subjects. Coffee may therefore have more of a detrimental effect on anxiety compared to tea, and this perhaps relates to the lack of L-theanine in coffee. Most studies have been performed on healthy subjects, and the effects of caffeine may be more pronounced on those with pre-existing mood disorders.

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Veleber, D. M. and Templer, D. I. 1984. Effects of caffeine on anxiety and depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 93(1): 120-122
Prediger, R. D., da Silva, G. E., Batista, L. C., Bittencourt, A. L. and Takahashi, R. N. 2006. Activation of adenosine A1 receptors reduces anxiety-like behavior during acute ethanol withdrawal (hangover) in mice. Neuropsychopharmacology. 31(10): 2210-2220
Rogers, P. J., Smith, J. E., Heatherley, S. V. and Pleydell-Pearce, C. W. 2008. Time for tea: mood, blood pressure and cognitive performance effects of caffeine and theanine administered alone and together. Psychopharmacology. 195(4): 569-577
Smith, A., Sturgess, W. and Gallagher, J. 1999. Effects of a low dose of caffeine given in different drinks on mood and performance. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. 14(7): 473-482
Smith, A. P. 1999. Caffeine, caffeine withdrawal and performance efficiency. Caffeine and Behavior: Current Views and Research Trends. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 161-178
Botella, P. and Parra, A. 2003. Coffee increases state anxiety in males but not in females. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. 18(2): 141-143
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Seafood for Mood Disorders

weight lossSeafood is increasingly being seen as beneficial to mood disorders. The current opinion is that part of this benefit comes from the high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in seafood. In particular the omega 3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid  (DHA, C22:6 (n-3)) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, C20:5 (n-3)) may have particular mood elevating effects. Omega 3 fatty acids may have particular benefits effects against depression and bipolar disorders. The reason that omega 3 fatty acids may be beneficial against mood disorders is because of the unique structure they possess. The kinked shape of the omega 3 fatty acid molecules increases the fluidity of membranes when the omega 3 fats are incorporated into them. This can have a significant effect on receptors, channels and enzymes to function within the membrane. If this process occurs in the cell membranes of neurones, there may be significant improvements in the efficiency of the neurones and this can play a significant effect on neurochemistry.

seafood anxiety depression

Omega 3 fatty acids can regulate cell function and thereby affect mood. This occurs through three main mechanisms. 1. Regulation of cell membrane fluidity. 2. Activation of anti-inflammatory pathways. 3. Activation of genes that directly influence cell behaviour. Seafood is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, and this may explain the benefits of high seafood diets in protecting from mood disorders.

Another way in which omega 3 fatty acids can influence mood disorders is through the regulation of cellular processes. The omega 3 fatty acids can be released from cell membranes and pass to the interior of the cell, where they become substrates for lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase enzymes. The products of the reactions catalysed by these enzymes are anti-inflammatory compounds that may regulate cellular inflammation downwards. Inflammation may be a cause of neurodegeneration and is implicated as a factor in the development of mood disorders. Omega 3 fatty acids can also regulate gene expression. This can happen directly through interaction with transcription factors such as the peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor α and γ and the retinoid X receptor, and also indirectly via activation of second messenger systems in the cell interior such as protein kinases. The effects of omega 3 fats to regulate cell processes and affect mood is therefore well reported.   

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Hegarty, B. D. and Parker, G. B. 2011. Marine omega‐3 fatty acids and mood disorders–linking the sea and the soul. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 124(1): 42-51
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Omega-3 Fatty Acids To Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

weight lossThere is evidence that there is currently an epidemic of depressive and anxiety disorders in the Western nations. Some have argued this is due to improvements in diagnosis and reporting of mood disorders, but empirical evidence argues against this case and suggests the increase is real. There are many reasons why the rates of mood disorders may be increasing, but perhaps one of the main factors is an increase in stress levels in combination with a poor diet. Chronic stress is highly disruptive to neurochemistry because it causes an increase in inflammation, which in turn causes an increase in oxidative stress. The increase in oxidative stress then causes deleterious changes to the tissues of the brain, altering neuronal signalling and neurotransmitter metabolism. A high quality diet can counteract the deleterious effects of stress because high quality diets can reduce inflammation and reduce oxidative stress. This antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect of high quality plant based diets may be why they are able to elevate mood.

One of the ways that high quality diets can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress is through the provisions of a balanced ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. The typical Western diet tends to contain too much omega 6 fat and not enough omega 3 fat. It has been suggested by a number of studies that Western diets high in omega 6 containing vegetable oils are a possible driver of the high rates of depression. The high levels of vegetable fat can increase levels of proinflammatory eicosanoids, and this in turn is associated with depression. Increasing the supply of omega 3 fat can redress the imbalance and may have beneficial mood elevating effects through reductions in inflammation. Studies have investigated the effects of omega 3 fatty acids on mood disorders, and the general consensus on the numerous studies that have been performed to date suggest that consumption of omega 3 fatty acids are associated with health benefits that relate to improvements in psychiatric disorders including depressed mood and anxiety.

fish DHA omega-3 depression anxiety

Can fish and seafood consumption decrease the risk of developing mood disorders? Those populations around the World that consume high amounts of fish or seafood as part of their traditional diet tend to have lower rates of depressive symptoms. Fish and seafood consumption may also prevent the development of anxiety.

Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that is more prevalent in the winter months when light levels and solar radiation are much lower. Seasonal affective disorder is associated with omega 3 consumption. It has been reported that fish consumption is inversely associated with seasonally affected disorder in a number of studies. Seasonally affected disorder is for example low in Iceland where fish consumption is high. Also, Japan has a low rate of seasonally affected disorder and the Japanese also consume high amounts of fish. In countries that consume low amounts of fish, seasonally affected disorder is much higher, despite some of these countries receiving much higher levels of sunlight. As the diets of polar communities change from a traditional high fish diet to a lower fish Western style diet, rates of seasonal affective disorder, depression, anxiety and suicide rise. Rates of depressive symptoms are much higher in individuals who consume fish infrequently compared to frequently.  

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Parker, G., Gibson, N. A., Brotchie, H., Heruc, G., Rees, A. M. and Hadzi-Pavlovic, D. 2006. Omega-3 fatty acids and mood disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry. 163(6): 969-978
Klerman, G. L. and Weissman, M. M. 1989. Increasing rates of depression. Jama. 261(15): 2229-2235
Hibbeln, J. R. and Salem Jr, N. 1995. Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids and depression: when cholesterol does not satisfy. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 62(1): 1-9
Lieb, J., Karmali, R. and Horrobin, D. 1983. Elevated levels of prostaglandin E2 and thromboxane B2 in depression. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Medicine. 10(4): 361-367
Perica, M. M. and Delaš, I. 2011. Essential fatty acids and psychiatric disorders. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 26(4): 409-425
McGrath-Hanna, N. K., Greene, D. M., Tavernier, R. J. and Bult-Ito, A. 2003. Diet and mental health in the Arctic: is diet an important risk factor for mental health in circumpolar peoples? – a review. International Journal of Circumpolar Health. 62(3): 228-241
Timonen, M., Horrobin, D., Jokelainen, J., Laitinen, J., Herva, A. and Räsänen, P. 2004. Fish consumption and depression: the Northern Finland 1966 birth cohort study. Journal of Affective Disorders. 82(3): 447-452
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The Neuroprotective Effects of Polyphenols

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Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla): A Source of Apigenin

weight lossChamomile is a medicinal plant with mood enhancing effects. These effects are thought to be due to the presence of flavonoids within the plant tissue. In particular, researchers have shown that chamomile contains apigenin, a flavonoid belonging to the flavone subgroup. Apigenin is found in the free apigenin form and also as apigenin 7-O-glucoside (aligenin bound to a glucose molecule). Apigenin is mainly found in the essential oil of chamomile and has been shown to be relatively heat stable. Chamomile extracts have been reported to contain different ratios of apigenin to apigenin 7-O-glucoside and this may reflect the fact that apigenin glucosides are enzymatically degraded to apigenin in the plant tissues. Therefore plants from different times of the season may contain different ratios of apigenin to apigenin 7-O-glucoside as degradation proceeds. As apigenin is likely responsible for the anxiolytic effects of chamomile, the ratio of apigenin to apigenin 7-O-glucoside may influence the mood elevating effects of the herb.  

chamomile anxiety depression

Chamomile is an effective treatment for mood disorders. Both depression and anxiety respond positively to the administration of chamomile extracts.

As well as apigenin 7-O-glucoside, chamomile contains other acetylated apigenin glucosides in lower amounts but these are unstable and tend to breakdown to form apigenin 7-O-glucoside and then apigenin. Apigenin is thought to confer anxiolytic effects to animals and humans, and these effects are reasonably well reported. However some studies have also shown that apigenin may have antidepressant effects. For example in one study, researchers investigated the antidepressant effects of apigenin in mice. Administration of apigenin was able to attenuate the experimentally induced depression in the animals in a similar manner to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor drug fluoxetine. In addition, both apigenin and fluoxetine also decreased the levels of proinflammatory markers in the brains of the mice, suggesting they both exerted anti-inflammatory effects. The authors of the study suggested that the antidepressant effects of apigenin may result from an anti-inflammatory effect in the prefrontal cortex of the mice

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Srivastava, J. K. and Gupta, S. 2009. Extraction, characterization, stability and biological activity of flavonoids isolated from chamomile flowers. Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology. 1(3): 2-15
Švehlı́ková, V., Bennett, R. N., Mellon, F. A., Needs, P. W., Piacente, S., Kroon, P. A. and Bao, Y. 2004. Isolation, identification and stability of acylated derivatives of apigenin 7-O-glucoside from chamomile (Chamomilla recutita [L.] Rauschert). Phytochemistry. 65(16): 2323-2332.
Schreiber, A., Carle, R. and Reinhard, E. 1990. On the accumulation of apigenin in chamomile flowers. Planta Medica. 56(02): 179-181
Li, R., Zhao, D., Qu, R., Fu, Q. and Ma, S. 2015. The effects of apigenin on lipopolysaccharide-induced depressive-like behavior in mice. Neuroscience Letters. 594: 17-22
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Does Drinking Water Cause Fat Loss?

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Rhodiola rosea (Arctic Root)

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Sage (Salvia): Medicinal Plant

weight lossSage (Salvia) is a group of plants belonging to the Lamiaceae or mint family of. The plants are mostly aromatic on account of the presence of a characteristic essential oil. The most commonly known species of sage is perhaps Salvia officinalis which is also known as garden sage, golden sage, broadleaf sage culinary sage or common sage, although there are perhaps as many as 900 species throughout the World. Sage is often taken as a tea or decoction in order to confer medicinal properties to the consumer. The current understanding of sage suggests that extracts of the herb may play a role treating digestive disorders, circulation problems, bronchitis, asthma, coughs, angina, throat infections, skin diseases and angina. In terms of mood disorders, sage has been shown to be effective as an antidepressant, anxiolytic and a memory enhancing agent. The mood elevating effects of sage may be due to the ability of the herb to increase brain levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine by inhibiting the enzyme acetylcholinesterase.

sage anxiety depression

The pharmacology of Salvia officinalis (common sage) has been extensively investigated. The essential oil contains a number of chemicals that are mostly terpenes, and these include 1,8‑cineole, camphor, borneol, bornyl acetate, camphene, α‑thujone and β‑thujone, thymol, linalool, α‑caryophyllene and β‑caryophyllene, α‑humulene, α‑pinene and β‑pinene, viridiflorol, pimaradiene, salvianolic acid, rosmarinic acid, carnosolic acid and ursolic acid. Some of these compounds, particularly rosmarinic acid, β‑caryophyllene, thymol and linalool have been investigated for their effects against mood disorders and found to be effective anxiolytic agents. Many of the chemicals in the essential oils have been shown to possess potent free radical scavenging activity. The ability to scavenge free radicals and reduce oxidative stress may be one of the primary mechanisms by which sage exerts its medicinal properties. In particular, evidence suggests that α‑thujone, β‑thujone, bornyl acetate, camphor, menthone, and 1,8‑cineol in the essential oil may have particularly strong radical scavenging activity.

The memory improving effects of sage species are quite well reported. For example, in one study on healthy human subjects sage essential oil extracts caused significant improvements in memory. It was confirmed using rat experiments that the sage essential oil extract cause significant inhibition of the acetylcholinesterase enzyme. This inhibition would raise acetylcholine levels in the brain, and this could improve memory. Postmortems on humans have also provided evidence that sage can inhibit the acetylcholinesterase enzyme in humans. It is likely that the main components of sage that are responsible for this memory enhancing effect may be the terpene compounds in the essential oil. Sage may also have neuroprotective effects due to the presence of high amounts of antioxidant chemicals in the essential and non-essential fractions of herbal extracts. The general improvements in brain function attributed to sage may therefore explain the mood elevating effects, suggesting that sage could be a general brain tonic.  

sage anxiety depression

Sage also contains flavonoids and other polyphenolic substances including carnosic acid, rosmarinic acid and particularly caffeic acid. Evidence suggests that most of the polyphenolic substances in sage are derivatives of the phenolic acid caffeic acid. Polyphenols including flavonoids and phenolic acids have strong free radical scavenging activity, which may confer protection from disease. Both rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid may be responsible for a large part of the antioxidant activity of sage. However certain flavonoids and phenolic acids have been shown to have particular beneficial effects against mood disorders. For example, caffeic acid may possess anxiolytic effects. Rosmarinic acid is a derivative of caffeic acid, and it may too possess anxiolytic activity. Ursolic acid is a pentacyclic triterpenoid found in sage that may also have medicinal properties as an anti-inflammatory. As inflammation is associated with oxidative stress and detrimental effects to brain tissue, ursolic acid may also play a role in the mood elevating effects of sage. The flavonoid luteolin‑7‑O‑β‑glucopyranoside is present in sage. Luteolin and its glycosides belong to the flavone group of flavonoids and have been shown to have an affinity for the benzodiazepine receptor in animal studies, suggesting they may exert anxiolytic effects in a similar way to benzodiazepine drugs.

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Hamidpour, M., Hamidpour, R., Hamidpour, S. and Shahlari, M. 2014. Chemistry, pharmacology, and medicinal property of sage (Salvia) to prevent and cure illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, depression, dementia, lupus, autism, heart disease, and cancer. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 4(2): 82-88
Perry, N., Howes, M. J., Houghton, P. and Perry, E. 2000. 14. Why sage may be s wise remedy: effects of salvia on the nervous system. The Genus Salvia. 207-224. In Medicinal and aromatic plants. Kintzios, S. E. (ed). Overseas Publishers Association. Amsterdam
Perry, N. S., Bollen, C., Perry, E. K. and Ballard, C. 2003. Salvia for dementia therapy: review of pharmacological activity and pilot tolerability clinical trial. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior. 75(3): 651-659
Imanshahidi, M. and Hosseinzadeh, H. 2006. The pharmacological effects of Salvia species on the central nervous system. Phytotherapy Research. 20(6): 427-437
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