Nutrition to increase performance?
Food can have both a positive and negative effect on your body, depending on what you eat. You have probably heard the adage “food is medicine”. It literally can be! It makes sense to focus on nutrition to increase performance not only at work but also at the gym and in life in general.
However, food can also be harmful. Oxidative stress is a good example of this. Oxidative stress leads to inflammation and inflammation leads to chronic diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes 2, cancer, heart disease, a weakened immune system and auto-immune diseases. Foods that cause oxidative stress include processed foods, foods high in processed sugar, as well as additives and preservatives. Read more about oxidative stress here.
Working from home is a great opportunity to get healthy. You have the ability to control your diet and know what is in your meal. Healthy eating also promotes productivity and creativity.
Let’s look at how nutrition can affect our performance, firstly at work, then in life in general.
How Nutrition Affects Performance at Work
Research has shown that the brain is susceptible to oxidative stress. Specifically, the hippocampus, amygdala, and cerebellar granule cells have been reported as the most susceptible to oxidative stress. The area with the most information about oxidative stress is the hippocampus which is responsible for memory. Within the hippocampus, the dentate gyrus is very prone to oxidative stress. The dentate gyrus has an important role in learning and memory function, and ventral hippocampus is implicated in anxiety and depression.
Eating a healthy diet has a direct impact on your work productivity. Many studies confirm this. Here are two of those. The first is a large study conducted by Brighton Young University. The study included 19,803 people who worked at one of three large companies in different geographic locations.
“Employees with unhealthy diets were 66% more likely to report having a loss in productivity” “Employees who rarely eat fruits, vegetables and other low-fat foods at work were 93% more likely to have a higher loss in productivity”
The second is a study of physicians assessed physicians on two alternate days. One with adequate nutrition intake and the other day their normal intake. They were assessed for cognitive function and hypoglycaemic symptoms. The study concluded that:
” support of adequate workplace nutrition as a contributor to improved physician cognition”
Cognition & Learning
A study of 170 overweight, healthy but otherwise sedentary children aged between 7-11 were studied for correlations examined associations of fitness and fatness with cognitive and achievement scores. The results indicated that fitness was associated with better cognition, achievement and behaviour, and fatness with worse scores.
511 university employees participated in a study conducted over four years with a yearly cognitive assessment which consisted of 15 computerised tests as well as measurements of Peripheral cysteine, glutathione, their disulphide derivatives, and C-reactive protein (CRP). The objective of the study was to see if oxidative stress and inflammation are linked to cognitive decline, especially in executive functions. The study concluded that oxidative stress is associated with a decline in executive function.
The University of Sydney conducted a study to determine if there was a relationship between obesity and cognitive function in young women (18-35y). The results indicated obesity achieved significantly lower performance in the attention and impulsivity domains compared to their NW peers, with evidence of lower performance also in the memory domain.
The role of BDNF in neuronal metabolism and synaptic plasticity is crucial for activating brain communication. Omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols promotes BDNF, however, high caloric diets impact the production of BDNF.
A review conducted by the University of NSW analyses the effect of a western-style diet on the brain function. The report summarises that the excessive consumption of fat and sugar or malnutrition across the life span alterations in brain regions involved in learning, memory, and reward.
The report states:
“Poor diet is a potential risk factor for the development of cognitive impairment; conversely, dietary nutrients are protective against such impairments”
How Nutrition Affects with Life in General
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare regularly publish a report which analyses the impact of more than 200 diseases.
In the latest report: The Australian Burden of Disease Study indicated that being overweight or obese may contribute accordingly to the following chronic diseases:
- 54% of type 2 diabetes
- 44% of osteoarthritis
- 40% of chronic kidney disease
- 25% of coronary heart disease
- 24% of asthma
- 21% of stroke
As we have seen, good nutrition has a positive effect on your life in so many ways. Working from home is a great opportunity to improve your nutrition and perform at your best. If you need assistance or guidance feel free to reach out to me here.