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As is so often the case, we’re discovering that remedies for 21st century health challenges had already been discovered by the ancients. Medieval apothecaries realised the benefits of green oat formulations for mental fitness, cognitive function and stress management and we’re beginning to unlock their secrets.

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Mental fitness refers to emotional health and our ability to meet the obstacles of life without unduly taxing our wellbeing. It’s what many of us refer to as our “mood”. The fitness of the central and most complex organ of our bodies, our brain, also encompasses cognitive longevity and wellbeing supported by good nutritional intake, daily exercise and a range of mental challenges and stimulation to keep our brains agile, healthy and active.

However, it’s not all about setting challenges. While most of us associate “fitness” with ramping up our levels of physical activity and exertion, mental fitness occurs at a refreshingly slower, less demanding pace. A key attribute of mental health is knowing how and when to slow down, relax and nurture good sleeping habits.

Emerging knowledge of the importance of gut health for mental health has spawned a new area of psychiatry: nutritional psychiatry focuses on the direct correlation between nutrition and mood, behaviour and mental health. Interestingly it is a cyclical science because improved mood and mental fitness, as a result of better-quality nutritional intake, positively influences informed decisions around ongoing dietary intake.

Alarming evidence from both the United States of America and the United Kingdom describes an “epidemic” of diagnosed depression and the over prescription of antidepressants. An ongoing social stigma associated with antidepressants means many people refuse to take them and go untreated, and there is growing evidence to support the claim that the use of antidepressants to treat children and young people has a negative outcome.

While nutritional psychiatry is an emerging science and improved diet is not used in mainstream medicine, the increasing rates of diagnosed depression and use of prescribed antidepressants in clinical treatment underlines the findings of nutritional psychiatry. Despite the huge range of foods available in the developed world, poor brain health across all age groups is being linked to nourishment deficiency with the overabundance of fast food options.

Inflammation has been targeted as a root cause of poor mood and depression. Long term inflammation eventually morphs from a bodily defense mechanism and begins to attack the body, including brain cells.

Degenerative age-related disease and progressive reduction of cognitive function is also being linked to brain health and nutrition with dopamine the key player.

In a healthy brain dopamine regulates cognition, mood and bodily functions. As the body ages the depletion of dopamine reduces brain function and the joy of everyday living. Longevity itself is no longer the holy grail; healthy longevity and wellbeing is what’s driving research into extending the production of dopamine to fire the activity in all cortexes of the brain and to improve our mood, cognitive health and quality of life.

Just as diet is being shown to be the cause of poor mood and depression, it can also be the remedy particularly with the support of functional foods like TransChem’s green oats extract product, Neuravena®. In fact, an improved nutritional intake including freshly prepared, preservative free, low sugar foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, fresh vegetables, whole grains and fruit is being revealed as a crucial aspect of the treatment protocol.