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Lower Cognitive Performance Linked to Popular Diet

A study currently available online ahead of the February 2009 print edition of the journal Appetite found that low carbohydrate diets may reduce cognitive ability.

Researchers from Tufts University recruited 19 women aged 22 to 25 for the study. Each participant was asked to select either a low carbohydrate diet or a low calorie diet. Nine of the women chose to follow a low carbohydrate diet and the other 10 selected a low calorie diet.

The low carbohydrate diet restricted carbohydrate intake to fewer than 20g a day. The recommended daily intake is at least 130g. The low calorie diet closely mirrored dietary guidelines recommended by the American Dietetic Association.

The women completed a series of cognitive tests to measure visual attention, short and long term memory and mood 72 hours before starting their diets, 48 hours after starting their diets and then one week into the diets.

The researchers found a gradual decrease in cognitive performance and slower reaction times on all of the tests among participants in the low carbohydrate group. There was no significant difference in hunger or average weight loss between the two groups.

The researchers note that a lack of glucose in the low carbohydrate diet is most likely responsible for the cognitive impairment observed in the study. Glucose is a simple sugar that serves as the main fuel source for the brain.

This hypothesis seemed to be supported by the fact that cognitive impairment in the low carbohydrate group diminished as carbohydrates were reintroduced into the participant's diet.

This study highlights the fact that diets can affect more than just weight and body mass. In fact, according to these results, dieting the wrong way can have a negative affect on learning, memory and thinking.

As a result of modern farming practices and livestock breeding techniques, what we eat today has less nutritional value than ever before. So if you find yourself feeling tired, slow, and mentally drained, it may be due to a lack of essential nutrients in your diet.

One way to replenish depleted nutrients and maintain optimum health is by taking high quality supplements. In many cases, supplements are a simple, effective way to get more of the nutrients that are difficult to acquire through diet alone and can help bridge the gap left by diminishing nutrient levels in food.
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