The Vitamin C Content of Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a rich source of antioxidants. One of the most researched antioxidants in tomatoes is the red pigment lycopene, a carotenoid that has been shown to be beneficial to prostate health. However, tomatoes are also a rich source of vitamin C, which can contribute significantly to the overall antioxidant effects. The vitamin C content of tomatoes is quite variable, and this variability depends to a large extent on the genetics of the fruit as well as the conditions under which the tomato was grown. Total vitamin C content of a tomato ranges from about 7 to over 40 milligrams per 100 grams of fresh fruit. Environmental factors that can alter the vitamin C content of the growing and ripening fruit include light and temperature. Generally greenhouse grown tomatoes and larger tomatoes are lower in vitamin C compared to field grown smaller varieties. The more light that a tomato is exposed to during ripening, the higher the vitamin C content becomes, presumably because the antioxidants protect the fruit from damage by light.  

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Murneek, A. E., Maharg, L. G. and Wittwer, S. H. 1954. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) content of tomatoes and apples. University of Missouri, College of Agriculture, Agricultural Experiment Station. Research Bulletin 568
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The Vitamin C and Polyphenol Content of Peaches

Fruit is an excellent source of nutrients, particularly antioxidants. Peaches contain high amounts of vitamin C and polyphenols, both of which have been shown to have antioxidant effects in humans and animals. Studies have investigated the vitamin C and polyphenol content of different varieties of peaches, and found that the blood-flesh varieties are higher in anthocyanins, which is not surprising as anthocyanins often give fruits their red colours. In addition, blood-flesh peaches were also higher in hydroxycinnamic acids and flavonols. For example, the chlorogenic acid (a hydroxycinnamic acid) content was 4 times higher in blood-flesh peaches compared to white-flesh peaches and quercetin glycosides (a flavonol) was 20–40 times higher. The vitamin C content of blood-flesh peaches was 40 % higher compared to white-flesh peaches. However, the catechin content of white-flesh peaches was double that of blood-flesh peaches. The total antioxidant content was higher in the blood-flesh peaches, but sugar contents were similar. 

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Aubert, C. and Chalot, G. 2020. Physicochemical characteristics, vitamin C, and polyphenolic composition of four European commercial blood-flesh peach cultivars (Prunus persica L. Batsch). Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 86: 103337
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Zinc Deficiency: Anxiety?

Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is required for a number of functions in humans and animals. Evidence suggests that zinc has a significant effect in the brain and may be required for normal mental function. Researchers have assessed the role of zinc deficient states on mental health using animal models. In one such study, rats were fed a zinc deficient diet for 2 weeks and this caused serum zinc concentrations to fall to levels half of control rats fed a normal diet. At the same time the zinc deficient rats had significant elevations in corticosterone levels. When the rats were exposed to experimental stress, the zinc deficient rats showed significantly higher levels of anxious behaviour. Therefore a zinc deficient state may cause an increase in anxiety due to increases in levels of stress hormones. The authors also noted that levels of intracellular calcium in the hippocampus increased in the zinc deficient rats suggesting that intracellular signalling may have been altered in the neurones in the brain as a result of the zinc deficiency. 

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Takeda, A., Tamano, H., Kan, F., Itoh, H. and Oku, N. 2007. Anxiety-like behavior of young rats after 2-week zinc deprivation. Behavioural Brain Research. 177(1): 1-6
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Polyphenols Protect from Neuroinflammation

Polyphenols are a large group of phytochemicals that may have biological effects in animals and plants. One group of polyphenols, the flavonoids, have been extensively investigated for their mood elevating effects. There are substantial structural differences between the various polyphenol compounds which may explain their differing and overlapping effects in experiments. Certainly some polyphenols appear to be more effective at modulating the inflammatory response compared to others. Apigenin is a polyphenol belonging to the flavonoid group (it is actually a flavone) which may have significant effects at protecting from neuroinflammation. Evidence suggested that apigenin is able to activate the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) in the brain, and this may in turn decrease the inflammatory response through a modulation of cytokine activity. Chronic neuroinflammation may be a cause of mental health problems including anxiety and depression, and a diet high in apigenin and other polyphenols may be protective of the development of these conditions. 

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González, R., Ballester, I., López-Posadas, R., Suárez, M. D., Zarzuelo, A., Martinez-Augustin, O. and Medina, F. S. D. 2011. Effects of flavonoids and other polyphenols on inflammation. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 51(4): 331-362
Li, R., Wang, X., Qin, T., Qu, R. and Ma, S. 2016. Apigenin ameliorates chronic mild stress-induced depressive behavior by inhibiting interleukin-1β production and NLRP3 inflammasome activation in the rat brain. Behavioural Brain Research. 296: 318-325
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Resveratrol as a PPAR Ligand: Mood Stabiliser

Resveratrol is a polyphenol present in the skin of red grapes. As a result one of the best dietary sources of resveratrol is red wine. Other food sources of resveratrol include pomegranate and nuts. Resveratrol has been evidenced to exert beneficial effects on mental health. This may relate to the evidence that shows that resveratrol is able to reduce neuronal inflammation in the hippocampus, and this may have a beneficial effect on mood. In particular, resveratrol has been shown to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. The mechanism for this is not fully understood, but evidence suggests that resveratrol can activate PPAR (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor) in brain tissue. The stimulation of PPAR by resveratrol may activate the PPAR-steroidal axis, which results in the release of allopregnanolone into the brain, and this provides significant anti-inflammatory effects within brain tissue. As inflammation is associated with low mood, resveratrol may be highly protective in this regard. 

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Matrisciano, F. and Pinna, G. 2020. PPAR and functional foods: Rationale for natural neurosteroid-based interventions for postpartum depression. Neurobiology of Stress. 12: 100222
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The PPA Axis and Neuroinflammation: Polyphenols

Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) is a ligand activated transcription factor present in brain (and other) tissue. The PPAR can modulate neuroinflammation by regulation of the steroid hormone allopregnanolone, which can have a subsequent and significant anti-inflammatory effect. The anti-inflammatory effects of the PPAR-steroidal axis may play a significant role in the maintenance of mental health, and disruption of this neuromodulation may cause a deterioration in mood. Both PPAR-α and PPAR-γ are distributed in mammalian brain tissue and could be potential targets for mood elevating foods. In this regard it is thought that a number of functional foods may potentially target the PPAR-steroidal axis and this may confer protection from neuroinflammation. One potentially large group of phytochemicals that may interact with the PPAR-steroidal axid are the polyphenols. In this group, flavonoids, tannins, phenolic acids and hydroxybenzoic acids may all elevate mood in this manner. 

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Matrisciano, F. and Pinna, G. 2020. PPAR and functional foods: Rationale for natural neurosteroid-based interventions for postpartum depression. Neurobiology of Stress. 12: 100222
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Lamiophlomis rotata (Kudo): Anxiolytic Herb?

Lamiophlomis rotata is a Tibetan herb that is sometimes commonly called Kudo. The herb is traditionally used to treat pain which suggests that it may have activity on the central nervous system. The active ingredients in Lamiophlomis rotata are iridoid glycosides including mainly shanzhiside methylester (SM) and 8-O-acetyl-SM (8-OaS). Some evidence suggests that these iridoid glycosides may have neuroprotective effects which may make them effective treatments for mood disorders. The pain relieving (nociceptive) effects of 8-O-acetyl-SM targets the spinal cord’s neuroinflammatory response. Studies investigating the effects of 8-O-acetyl-SM on animals models of anxiety demonstrate that the compound has significant anxiolytic effects. Mechanistically this may relate to regulation of the excitability of certain parts of the brain through modulation of the GABA neurotransmission system and a regulation of inflammatory responses in the basolateral amygdala (part of the brain tasked with conditioning). 

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Sun, T., Luo, L., Tian, Q. Q., Wang, W. J., Liu, Q. Q., Yang, L., Yang, K., Zhang, W., Zhao, M. and Yang, Q. 2020. Anxiolytic Effects of 8-O-Acetyl Shanzhiside Methylester on Acute and Chronic Anxiety via Inflammatory Response Inhibition and Excitatory/Inhibitory Transmission Imbalance. Neurotoxicity Research. 1-13
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Borage as a Treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Borage (Borago offininalis) also called starflower, is a plant that belongs to the Boraginaceae family of plants. Borage has been shown to have a number of health effects in humans and animals, and may have potential as a treatment for mood disorders such as anxiety or depression. Borage flowers and oil both appear to have therapeutic effects against mental illness, and this may be for different reasons, as while the flowers are rich in phytochemical antioxidants, the oil is rich is dihomo-gamma linolenic acid. Both the flower extracts and the oil may have significant anti-inflammatory effects that can be beneficial in treating mood disorders. Traditional medical uses for borage flower and oil extract include treatment of mental health issues. Studies suggest that borage flowers have effects on mood similar to benzodiazepines and in one particular study, 500 mg of borage oil daily for a number of weeks was significantly able to reduce the symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder in human patients. 

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Zamani, Z. and Akhondzadeh, S. 2019. Herbal Medicine in the Treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Review. Journal of Medicinal Plants. 18(71): 1-5
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The Association Between Zinc Intake and Depression

A number of studies have demonstrated that zinc supplements are effective at treating mood disorders. This may suggest that a zinc deficient state is one of the possible causes of low mood. This may relate to the fact that zinc is required as a cofactor for a large number of enzymes, and therefore having a zinc deficiency could negatively affect certain metabolic pathways. If these pathways are required for example in neurotransmitter synthesis or other neuronal functions, low mood could result. Further, zinc is required for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase, and therefore a low zinc intake could reduce antioxidant defences and increase free radicals. As free radicals and oxidative stress are a likely causative factor in low mood, this may also explain the role of zinc. Studies investigating the mood of elederly subjects have shown that those with the highest intake of zinc have a significantly lower prevalence of depression compared to those with the lowest intake, suggesting that zinc intake may be pivotal in maintaining mental health. 

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Anbari-Nogyni, Z., Bidaki, R., Madadizadeh, F., Sangsefidi, Z. S., Fallahzadeh, H., Karimi-Nazari, E. and Nadjarzadeh, A. 2020. Relationship of zinc status with depression and anxiety among elderly population. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN.
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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Oxidative Stress Hypothesis

One hypothesis suggests that the development of post traumatic stress disorder is due to the presence of chronic stress. This stress likely causes high levels of circulating stress hormones and the development of inflammation. It has been suggested that the free radicals produced by the inflammation damage brain tissue and cause structural changes that affect the behaviour of the individual, particularly in the hippocampus. There is a possibility that the presence of these free radicals can also damage other tissues leading to a range of associated health conditions that may include heart disease and cancer. However, the brain is highly susceptible to the damaging effects of free radicals because it contains high amounts of polyunsaturated fats and glucose. Post traumatic disorder is a form of anxiety and antioxidants have been shown to be an effective long-term treatment for anxiety. A diet high in plant foods containing antioxidants may therefore be a potential treatment for post traumatic stress disorder. 

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Miller, M. W. and Sadeh, N. 2014. Traumatic stress, oxidative stress and post-traumatic stress disorder: neurodegeneration and the accelerated-aging hypothesis. Molecular Psychiatry. 19(11): 1156-1162
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