Eat Better; Sleep Better: the Dream Diet
A healthy diet improves everything else about your health. So, why shouldn’t it improve your sleep? It does!
Good sleep is crucial to good health. It is vital to mental health, cognitive health, physical health and quality of life. Despite awareness of sleep’s importance, insufficient sleep is becoming epidemic (Healthcare (Basel). 2018 Dec 20;7(1):1) and is being made even worse by increasing time spent on smart phones and other electronic devices (Nat Sci Sleep. 2020 Jun 23;12:357-364).
There are many well known herbs and nutrients that help. Less well known is that diet helps. This intriguing new study looked at the effect of a healthy Mediterranean diet on sleep.
The Mediterranean is a proven healthy pattern of eating that includes lots of whole grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil, is moderate in fish and low in red meat, sugar and saturated fats.
The study included 503 university students with an average age of 22. Careful analysis found that the students who followed a Mediterranean diet were significantly more likely to have a good quality sleep. They also fell asleep significantly faster and woke up less often.
There are many reasons why a healthy diet may help you sleep better. Plant based foods are anti-inflammatory, while animal source foods are inflammatory. Inflammatory foods have been linked to poor sleep quality (Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Jul 1;80(1):40-52; Nutrients. 2019 Jun 13;11(6):1324).
A surprising recent discovery is that many fruits are rich in melatonin, including cherries (Eur J Nutr 2012;51:909-16) and tomatoes (Clin Nutr. 2020 01 ;39(1):291-297). Several fruits, vegetables and legumes are rich in tryptophan or melatonin and have been shown to improve sleep (Annu Rev Nutr. 2021 Oct 11;41:309-332).
Other research has found another reason a plant based diet may help. Eating more fiber leads to more time spent in deep sleep; eating more saturated fat leads to less (J Clin Sleep Med 2016;12:19-24).
All of this shows that eating a healthy diet is crucial for having a good sleep.
Front Nutr. 2021;8:805955
Folic Acid: Living Longer in Brain & Body
Folic acid is a safe, inexpensive vitamin with several health benefits. New research is showing that taking folic acid could help you to live a longer and cognitively healthier life.
This massive study followed 27,188 people between the ages of 60 and 75 who had no pre-existing dementia. The people who were deficient in folic acid were a significant 68% more likely to develop dementia. They were also 298% more likely to die from any cause during the course of the study.
There is a possibility that the dementia causes the folic acid deficiency instead of the other way around. This possibility did not exist for all-cause mortality.
Earlier research also suggests a role for folic acid in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Folic acid is important for lowering homocysteine, and homocysteine is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. That may be just one reason why several studies have found that low levels of folic acid seem to be linked to higher risk of Alzheimer’s. One study found that seniors who get the most folic acid have the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s (Arch Neurol 2007;64:86-92).
Evidence-Based Mental Health March 2022; doi:10.1136/ebmental-2021-300309