Early-life stress has been shown to impair learning and memory in later life, but new research, published online in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, suggests that improved nutrition may help offset the negative effects of this stress.
Working with mice, scientists focused on essential micronutrients, including methionine, vitamins B6 and B12, and folic acid, none of which are made by the body and need to be ingested through diet.
They found that early-life stress reduces the levels of these nutrients in mouse pups, but supplementation prevented the reduction of methionine levels and even prevented some of the lasting negative effects of early-life stress on later learning and memory in adult offspring.
“Today’s children are tomorrow’s future,” said Aniko Korosi, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences and the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Amsterdam in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. “We hope that this study can contribute to novel nutritional strategies that help prevent lasting consequences of a stressful childhood on later mental health.”
L-methionine is an essential amino acid. Methionine helps the body produce SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-methionine), which has been used to treat psychiatric illnesses. Studies on SAMe have shown that it is as effective as tricyclic antidepressants in alleviating depression.
Regular intake of B12 and folic acid has been shown to improve memory in stressed adults. Low B12 is directly linked to poor cognitive performance and brain shrinkage in adults. A recent study with infants aged 12-18 months found that as folic acid and B12 levels went up, so did scores on the mental development index.
B6: The B vitamins generally get depleted in stressful conditions. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is needed for helping manufacture neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which aids in the body’s ability to cope with depression, stress and anxiety. Low vitamin B6 levels have also been linked to stress and anxiety. In addition, vitamin B6 may boost the production of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which helps to control pain. Researchers have found lower levels of serotonin in people with migraine headaches. Starting doses of 25 mg per day help to keep headaches away.
A 2009 study of 52 migraine suffers examined the effectiveness of a combination of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid. For six months, each day patients either received the vitamins (2 mg of folic acid, 25 mg of vitamin B6 and 400 micrograms of B12) or an inactive placebo. Those taking the vitamins had less severe migraines attacks and fewer attacks.
According to Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, supplements that help with stress include Magnesium: This multipurpose supplement helps to relax the body while also easing anxiety. The starting dose of magnesium is usually 200 mg and is best in a glycinate or chelate form. Take at least one hour prior to bedtime.
Theanine: Found naturally in green and black tea, theanine helps to relax the mind, tuning down the desire to have an adult temper tantrum. Theanine doses begin at 200 mg per day.