A nutritional diet maximizes the benefits of exercise and improves working memory, according to a new study from Abbott. In collaboration with the U.S. Air Force Research Lab and the University of Illinois, researchers found a direct link between nutrition and physical and cognitive performance.
“The physical and mental health benefits of exercise are well known, but this study demonstrates how optimal nutrition can help boost brain function as well,” said lead study author Dr. Chris Zwilling. “We are excited by the results because they provide critical insights into how simple dietary changes can make a big difference in helping people be as efficient and productive as possible in today’s world. “
The investigation was focused on 148 active-duty men and women in the U.S. Air Force, who were divided into two groups. All of the study participants engaged in the same exercise training program five days a week. One group was given a high-protein nutritional drink which contained lutein, omega-3 fatty acids, phospholipids, vitamin D, and beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB).
The nutritional supplement was found to induce statistically significant changes compared to exercise alone. The participants who were given the nutritional drinks showed an 11-percent boost in working memory, including improvements in problem solving and information processing.
The individuals who received supplements became faster and more accurate in their reaction times and increased their muscle mass by more than two pounds. In addition, they lowered their resting heart rate by 8 percent, which is a sign of increased cardiovascular fitness.
Study co-author Dr. Matthew Kuchan said that Abbott has been researching the impact of nutrition on brain function for more than a decade. “These results confirm that by combining the right nutrition and exercise, people who are facing high-pressure situations can stay sharp physically and mentally when they need it most.”
Healthy adults can prime their bodies and brains to work more efficiently by incorporating exercise with a nutritional diet. The experts shared the following recommendations: consume foods rich in protein to help build muscle after a workout; support memory and multi-tasking by getting enough DHA – an omega-3 fatty acid – in your diet; and boost your working memory by consuming more lutein, which can be found in egg yolks, dark leafy greens, and brightly colored fruits and vegetables like bell peppers, avocados, carrots, corn, and tomatoes.
“It is clear that nutrition is a critical component for developing and maintaining the physical and cognitive performance of the men and women in the U.S. Air Force,” said Dr. Adam Strang, the study’s lead investigator with the Air Force Research Laboratory. “This research confirms that a nutritional supplement with the right nutrients can support and facilitate those improvements when paired with balanced exercise training. We hope to use this knowledge now and, in the future, to better prepare them for the complex and diverse mission sets they are facing.”
The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.