It’s Not Only Additives That Affect Behaviour – By Cyndi O’Meara

It’s Not Only Additives That Affect Behaviour – By Cyndi O’Meara

Monday, 25 March 2013 10:24

As I wait in line at the check out of many grocery stores usually trying to research the buying trends of young Mums with young children I’m appalled by their lack of education and understanding as to how food choices not only affect the health of children but also their behaviour.

If they knew that the foods that they were spending good money on inadvertently affects the health and behaviour of their children would they do it?


Last week I was walking through the aisles of the supermarket and I heard a mother yelling at her very disruptive children, I glanced in the trolley and saw soft drinks, muesli bars, lollies, packaged food, cured meats, modified milks, bread with additives, icy poles some fruit and vegetables, flavoured milk and packed lunch fillers. Not only were the children unruly but so was the mother.

I was doing a talk recently and one lady told me that she never looked at the food label, if it looked good or the children had said they wanted it she bought it. Now to me she looked and sounded like a fairly educated woman but to make a statement like that flawed me. How many other people think and act like that. Is there not enough information out there or are people just lazy and believe a pill can cure all, whether it be for a mental or physical illness.

Is it just a small select group of people around the country and probably the ones reading this article that seem to have got the big idea and who think differently about food choices for their children and how they know certain foods affect their behaviour?

For those who are reading this article, read it and pass it on to someone who you think might need some help with their children’s health and behaviour, even if we get to one more frustrated mother or father at least we have done something.

Food fundamentally changes the chemicals in the brain which in turn affect mood and behaviour. This is not fanciful this is fact!

It is not coincidence that we can relate back to how food began to change around 25 years ago to a more mechanistic, technology based substance and the increase in mental illness and behaviour problems amongst our adolescents and children respectively. We know that depression is now affecting 20% of the population including our adolescents, ADHD, ADD,, psychotic

episodes, bipolar disorder, mental illness and now 50,000 schizophrenia sufferers are now common place without a doubt in Australia.

Let’s look at how natural foods affect moods and behaviour then explore how Clayton’s food, such as margarine, additives, modified milks, cured meats, hydrogenated vegetable oil, soya protein isolate and other technology foods may be affecting the brain chemicals.

All brain chemicals need the precursors of certain amino acids but depending on what the dominant food type is during a meal will decide which neurotransmitters are made.

Proteins increase two neurotransmitters in the brain called dopamine and noradrenaline. These two chemicals are what can briefly be described as the brain chemicals that cause a state of alertness. Protein; which is present in nuts, meat, chicken, fish, eggs, legumes, yogurt and seeds, should be eaten in the early part of the day with fruits and vegetables up until afternoon tea.

The time you want your child or your self to be alert and ready for work and with lots of brain activity.

Carbohydrates increase the levels of the brain hormone serotonin. Serotonin is the calming chemical of the brain it creates a calm relaxed mood, ready to put the feet up and not have to think too much. Sufficient levels of serotonin provide feelings of contentment and helps us to get a good night sleep. This is a good neurotransmitter to have high quantities of in the brain toward the end of the day or on weekends, when you’re ready to unwind.

What is frustrating is that we usually feed our children and ourselves breakfast cereals(carbohydrate) in the morning and wonder why our children can’t concentrate or are disruptive in the class. Then at night is when proteins are eaten and then sleeping problems are the result. Knowing that this is the case then it would be prudent to look at what you are feeding yourself and your children for breakfast.

Our moods depend on these neurotransmitters, which facilitate communication between the brain and nervous system. Poor dietary choices affect the neurotransmitters. When serotonin levels become consistently low the person can become depressed and lethargic.

What is interesting is that the drug of choice for people suffering depression are a group of drugs called SUI (serotonin uptake inhibitors) in other words the drugs are trying to keep the levels of serotonin in the brain consistent.

The obvious Serotonin depleters are; caffeine, alcohol, illicit drugs such as cocaine and tobacco which contribute to imbalances in serotonin levels that eventually deplete serotonin and depress the individual. You can prevent serotonin depletion by avoiding these stimulants. No surprises here! But what interests me; if you have been prescribed drugs for depression did, your doctor tell you this?

The fats we consume are crucial for health. In the 80’s fat became a dirty word and food manufacturers went with the flow providing food that was either low in fat or no fat. Then saturated fat became a nasty word and technology made a new fat called trans fats (TF’s) and intersterification fats (IF’s). Now we know that these plastic fats are a huge contributor to the increase in depression. Here’s how it works.

Fats are critical in order to use serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. Not only are neurons in the brain composed of fatty acids but our cell membranes (the outer part of the cell) are made up of fats as are the receptors that help with the balance and travel of the neurotransmitters in and out of the cells and neurons.

A plethora of clinical studies show that low-fat diets can lead to depression, low energy, anxiety and difficulty concentrating. But what is interesting is that when we eat a diet either low in fat or with most of the fat being either trans fats or intersterification fats then the cell membranes and receptors don’t work very well by shutting down fatty acid metabolism and suppressing cell membrane function and as a result we get an imbalance in our neurotransmitters.

So to make sure your neurotransmitters are able to function efficiently eat only good quality fats such as; butter, cold pressed oils, nuts, seeds, eggs, fatty fish and meats and stay away from anything low fat or with hydrogenated oil or (TF’s and IF’s.

While fats effect proper neurotransmitter function so does refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates like white sugar and breakfast cereals do provide a quick boost of serotonin, that’s why after eating sugary donuts and other similar foods you feel pretty good but the feeling doesn’t last and soon enough you want more. These high spikes of serotonin confuse the brain and it shuts down some of the receptors to try and restore balance, the result is serotonin resistance in other words we can’t use the serotonin we have, something similar to insulin resistance.

So this crazy cycle begins where you eat more refined carboydrates and the more serotonin resistant you become resulting in severe mood swings. Now did your doctor also explain that one to you???

What I find interesting is that in the last 20 years not only has depression increased three fold but so has diabetes. Insulin resistance, and serotonin resistance go hand in hand. Insulin plays a key role in the transfer of amino acids (the precrusors for the neurotransmitters) from the circulatory system into the brain. So perhaps if we solve the diabetes epidemic we’ll also solve the depressing depression epidemic.

Of course vitamins and minerals are like keys in this whole process without them many of the biochemical pathways won’t work, the B vitamins, as well as vitamin C, calcium, zinc, and magnesium to name a few are a must in order for the body to make neurotransmitters.

Don’t become to bogged down in the mechanics of the balance of neurotransmitters and how much of this and how much of that you must eat in order to have a healthy mind and body, just go back to eating natural whole foods that you prepare yourself made from old fashioned basic ingredients. The body and mind will eventually find harmony.

If you have been neglecting your body and mind then this will take time, so don’t think that one good day of eating is going to make a difference it must become a lifetime quest.

Article written by Cyndi O’Meara – for more on her great book ‘Changing Habits Changing Lives’ and her corporate seminars etc, visit https://www.changinghabits.com.au/

Mark Bunn

Mark Bunn – is a leading natural health researcher specialising in Ayurvedic medicine, author of the three-time best-selling ‘Ancient Wisdom for Modern Health‘ and one of Australasia's most popular health and performance speakers.  Mark is also CEO of David Lynch Foundation Australia.