Natural Foods Merchandiser

Science Briefs

Diet Axes Jet Lag
Travelers will be glad to learn that the Argonne diet pattern may prevent jet lag, according to Dr. Norman Reynolds of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Jet lag is a disruption of daily body rhythms, which causes insomnia, illness, tiredness, irritability and the inability to concentrate. Travelers should begin the Argonne diet four days before departure by eating a protein-rich breakfast and lunch and a carbohydrate-rich dinner. High-protein meals trigger brain catecholamines, increasing alertness; carbohydrates cause drowsiness. The next day, travelers should eat small, low-calorie meals. This daily alteration mutes the impact of abrupt circadian rhythm changes. Caffeine is highly regulated prior to travel.

Reynolds studied the diet's effectiveness on 186 National Guard personnel sent to Korea and back, a nine time-zone change each way. The men were allowed to choose whether they would use the diet and in which direction. Jet lag is worse traveling east than west—more people succumb and symptoms are twice as severe and longer lasting. Ninety-five used it going to Korea, 39 for the return. In both directions, the soldiers who used the Argonne diet cut their chances of getting jet lag dramatically. Going to Korea, just 9 percent of soldiers using the Argonne diet experienced jet lag, but half of the nondieters did. Homecomings were marred by jet lag for only a quarter of the dieters, but for 83 percent of those not using the Argonne diet.

—Military Medicine
2002 Jun;167(6):451.

Creatine Helps Maintain Alertness
Creatine supplements can increase the ability to do calculations and stay alert for a period of time, according to a new double-blind placebo-controlled study by Airi Watanabe, Department of Neuropsychiatry, University of Tokyo. The study involved 19 men and five women whose average age was 24. They received either 8 g of creatine or a placebo for five days. The participants were tested to determine mental fatigue before and after supplementation. Participants performed numerical calculations for 15 minutes, then took a five-minute break followed by another 15 minutes of calculations. Researchers used near infared spectroscopy to determine participant's brain hemoglobin oxygen changes, which occur with mental fatigue.

In the group taking the creatine supplements, performance was substantially better after five days of supplementation than before. There was no difference in the placebo group. Oxygenation studies showed a complex pattern that is consistent with increased brain oxygen consumption following supplementation. This is the first study to examine creatine's effects on mental performance.

Neuroscience Research
2002 Apr;42(4):279.

Mother's DHA Levels Predict Maturity of Baby's Brain
Higher maternal levels of the omega-3 fat DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) may translate into a more advanced infant central nervous system. Dr. Sunita Cheruku of the University of Connecticut measured the plasma DHA levels of 17 new mothers and correlated them with the babies' sleep-wake cycles. Sleep patterns are a measure of CNS integrity because they require coordination of multiple processes in different parts of the brain. In a newborn, quiet sleep is an indication of maturity, predicting faster mental and physical development. In time, as an infant's CNS matures, sleep becomes quieter and is consolidated into fewer sleep periods and more time spent awake. Cheruku divided the babies into two groups, depending on whether maternal DHA levels were greater or less than 3 percent of total plasma phospholipids, and found a significant difference in newborn sleep patterns.

On their first day after birth, babies whose mothers had high DHA levels slept more soundly—the ratio of active to quiet sleep was about half that of the other babies. By their second day, the same babies were awake almost twice as much on average compared with the babies whose mothers had lower DHA levels. The sleep state determinations were made using sophisticated recording and analyzing programs and would not be observable by parents at home.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
2002 Sep;76(3):608.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 11/p. 36

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