Microalgae As A Source of Carotenoids

Microalgae are an important source of nutrients. Certain microalgae are commercially available and studies suggest they may possess health benefits when taken as a supplement. Commercially relevant microalgae are the green algae (Chlorophycea) Chlorella vulgaris, Haematococcus pluvialis, Dunaliella salina and the Cyanobacteria Spirulina maxima, which are already widely used as nutritional supplements for humans and as animal feed additives. Because these microalgae photosynthesise, they contain carotenoids, which photosynthesising organism uses as accessory pigments to chlorophyll. Carotenoids in photosynthetic algae include beta carotene and astaxanthin. For example, Dunaliella salina may contain up to 14 % dry weight as astaxanthin. Haematococcus pluvialis is also a rich source of astaxanthin, and is often used as food for farmed salmon, in order to provide the pink colour required for this product. The high antioxidant capacity of photosynthesis algae comes partly from the high carotenoid concentrations, although other antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E are also present.

spirulina chlorella algae carotenoids

Two of the most popular microalgaes on the supplement market are spirulina and chlorella. Both have been extensively investigated for their health effects. These effects likely come from the high density of essential nutrients and the high density of antioxidants in the algae. The carotenoid content of microalgae is often listed on the label of supplements.

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Gouveia, L., Batista, A. P., Sousa, I., Raymundo, A. and Bandarra, N. M. Microalgae in Novel Food Products. Food Chemistry Research Developments. ISBN 978-1-60456-262-0
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Resveratrol in Foods

Resveratrol is a stilbene polyphenol that is found in red wine. Resveratrol is a component of red grapes, and during the manufacture of wine it passes from the grapes to the wine. Resveratrol is considered a biologically active antioxidant, and studies have shown that it may be protective of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mood disorders. However grapes are not the only dietary source of resveratrol. Peanuts, berries and certain herbs including Japanese Knotweed (Itadori) tea are rich sources of resveratrol. Consuming peanuts, peanut products such as peanut butter, berries and Japanese knotweed tea can all increase the resveratrol content of the diet. In peanuts and Itadori tea, the resveratrol is mainly present as resveratrol glycoside, a form of resveratrol bound to a sugar molecule. However, in red wine, the resveratrol is present mainly as the aglycone form, a form not bound to a sugar. This may affect the absorption of the resveratrol. However, both red wine and  Itadori tea appear to be good sources of resveratrol.

red wine resveratrol

It is possible that the resveratrol in red wine is the component responsible for the cardioprotective properties of wine.

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Burns, J., Yokota, T., Ashihara, H., Lean, M. E., and Crozier, A. Plant Foods and Herbal Sources of Resveratrol.Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 50: 3337-3340
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Orange Blossom and Mood

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Myrtle (Myrtus communis) For Mood

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Rose Oil Aromatherapy

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Resveratrol: Anti-Anxiety Component of Red Wine?

Red wine is a complex mixture of phytochemicals and their metabolites. One phytochemical in red wine is resveratrol, a polyphenol antioxidant that is found in grapes. Evidence suggests that resveratrol is effective at protecting from a number of diseases, and may improve both physical and mental health. Evidence suggests that resveratrol is protective of mood disorders, and this may relate to its antioxidant capacity. For example, in one study, researchers administered resveratrol to rats and exposed the rats to experimental stress. Both in an acute and chronic administration pattern, resveratrol was effective at reducing the depressive-like behaviour of the rats in the forced swimming test. This improvement in mood was facilitated without any detrimental effects on locomotor activity, suggesting it was not due to sedation. In addition, the levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor were elevated in the hippocampus area of the brains of the rats, suggesting the resveratrol had neuroprotective effects.

red wine anxiety depression mood

Resveratrol, chemically 3,4’,5-trihydroxy-trans-stilbene, is a natural non-flavonoid polyphenol antioxidant that is found in red grapes and transferred to red wine during processing. In animals models, resveratrol may reduce depressive behaviour following the application of stress.

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Hurley, L. L., Akinfiresoye, L., Kalejaiye, O. and Tizabi, Y. 2014. Antidepressant effects of resveratrol in an animal model of depression. Behavioural Brain Research. 268: 1-7
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Enrichment of Eggs With Lycopene

Eggs are a nutrient rich food that provides a broad spectrum of essential nutrients. This should be no surprise as eggs contain all the nutrients to grow a young chick. Although eggs are generally regarded as a healthy food, the quality of the egg depends greatly on the food that is provided to the bird. In the case of chickens for example, battery caged chicken produce eggs that are of lower quality compared with free range chickens. This relates to the fact that generally, being free range allows the chickens to consume a wider variety of foods, and this is reflected in a better nutritional profile in the eggs. One nutrient in eggs that is able to be modified by the diet of the bird directly is the carotenoid group of nutrients. In fact, the deep yellow or orange colour of egg yolks is a direct result of the presence of carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. It has also been shown that quail eggs can be enriched with the carotenoid lycopene if the birds are fed a lycopene rich diet. Eggs are therefore a very useful functional food.

eggs lycopene carotenoids

Feeding birds carotenoids increases the carotenoid content of their eggs. Feeding other animals carotenoids also increases the carotenoid content of their tissues. This is also true for humans.

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Sahin, N., Akdemir, F., Orhan, C., Kucuk, O., Hayirli, A. and Sahin, K. 2008. Lycopene-enriched quail egg as functional food for humans. Food Research International. 41(3): 295-300
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Are Tomatoes Protective Of Mood Disorders

Tomatoes are a rich source of nutrients including phytochemical antioxidants. In particular, tomatoes are known to contain carotenoids, the most abundant being the red pigment lycopene. Lycopene has a number of health effects and this may relate to the fact that it is absorbed into animals and human tissues where it acts as a antioxidant. Exposure to stress is thought to cause the release of cortisol and the generation of inflammatory processes, and this leads to the formation of free radicals. The free radicals are a source of oxidative stress, and this may cause lipid peroxidation in the tissues of the brain which damages the delicate neurones and causes dysfunction. It is this dysfunction that can lead to the development of mood disorders. Research shows that a tomato rich diet may reduce the risk of developing depressive symptoms, and this may be due to the antioxidants in the tomatoes. Other fruits and vegetables may be equally effective, if they contain comparable amounts of antioxidants.

tomato mood depression anxiety

Tomatoes account for the majority of lycopene in the human diet. Lycopene is particularly effective at quenching the singlet oxygen radical, and in this way can inhibit oxidative stress in the delicate tissues of the brain.

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Niu, K., Guo, H., Kakizaki, M., Cui, Y., Ohmori-Matsuda, K., Guan, L., Hozawa, A., Kuriyama, S., Tsuboya, T., Ohrui, T., Furukawa, K., Arai, H., Tsuji, I. and Furukawa, K. 2013. A tomato-rich diet is related to depressive symptoms among an elderly population aged 70 years and over: a population-based, cross-sectional analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders. 144(1-2): 165-170
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The Mediterranean Diet: Anti-Inflammatory for Better Mental Health

The Mediterranean diet is a traditional diet that has a number of health benefits. Some of these benefits relate to the ability of the diet to improve mental health. In particular, adherence to the Mediterranean diet decreases the risk of anxiety and depression. Mood disorders are caused by inflammatory processes in the brain that result from changes caused by stress. The Mediterranean diet is an anti-inflammatory diet and this may be why it is beneficial at preventing mood disorders. Other studies have investigated the effects of the Mediterranean diet on other aspects of mental performance. For example, it has been evidenced that adherence to the Mediterranean diet is protective of mild cognitive impairment. The mechanisms by which the diet can protect from both mood disorders and mild cognitive impairment may be similar, as inflammation is a likely cause of both. The diet is an anti-inflammatory diet because of the high amounts of antioxidants it contains, along with the balance of essential fats.

Mediterranean diet mood anxiety depression

Consumption of the Mediterranean diet may have particular anti-inflammatory effects. These may benefit physical and mental health.

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Chrysohoou, C., Panagiotakos, D. B., Pitsavos, C., Das, U. N. and Stefanadis, C. 2004. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet attenuates inflammation and coagulation process in healthy adults: The ATTICA Study. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 44(1): 152-158
Scarmeas, N., Stern, Y., Mayeux, R., Manly, J. J., Schupf, N. and Luchsinger, J. A. 2009. Mediterranean diet and mild cognitive impairment. Archives of neurology. 66(2): 216-225
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Dietary Patterns and Mood Disorders

The Mediterranean diet is a traditional diet that is characterised by foods that are unprocessed or minimally processed. This include large amounts of fruits and vegetables and other foods containing high amounts of antioxidants, particularly red wine. In contrast the modern Western diet is a diet that contains high amounts of processed fats, starch and sugars, and low amounts of fruits and vegetables. The Mediterranean diet is associated with a number of health benefits and these include benefits to mental health. In contrast, the Western diet is associated with mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. These associations may relate to the way the diets can control or initiate inflammation, a primary cause of mood disorders. Whilst the Mediterranean diet is able to reduce inflammation and thus protect from mood disorders, the Western diet can initiate and worsen existing inflammatory conditions, and this may cause the consumer to gradually experience depressed mood and anxious feelings.

Mediterranean diet anxiety depression

Traditional diets such as the Mediterranean diet can significantly improve mental health and may protect from the development of anxiety and depression.

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Kamali., Dastsouz, F., Sadeghi, F., Amanat, S., and Akhlaghi, M. 2016. Associations between Western and Mediterranean-type diet pattern and anxiety and stress. Acta Alimentaria.45(3): 398-405


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