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Carbohydrate intake improves cognitive performance of stress-prone individuals under controllable laboratory stress

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Author: Markus, C.R. · Panhuysen, G. · Jonkman, L.M. · Bachman, M.
Institution: Centraal Instituut voor Voedingsonderzoek TNO
Source:British Journal of Nutrition, 6, 82, 457-467
Identifier: 71719
Keywords: Nutrition · Carbohydrate · Cognitive performance · Stress · Amino acid · Serotonin · Tryptophan · Adult · Carbohydrate intake · Controlled study · Female · Human · Human experiment · Male · Memory · Mental performance · Mental stress · Normal human · Protein restriction · Pulse rate · Serotonin brain level · Skin conductance · Task performance · Adult · Case-Control Studies · Dietary Carbohydrates · Disease Susceptibility · Female · Galvanic Skin Response · Humans · Male · Memory · Psychological Tests · Pulse · Stress, Psychological


Cognitive performance has been found to decline after exposure to stress, particularly in stress-prone subjects. The present study investigated whether a carbohydrate-rich, protein-poor (CR/PP) diet, which may enhance cerebral serotonin function in stress-prone subjects due to increases in the available tryptophan, improves the performance of stress-prone subjects after exposure to acute laboratory stress. Twenty-two high-stress-prone (HS) subjects and twenty-one low-stress-prone (LS) subjects aged between 19 and 26 years performed a memory scanning task after controllable and uncontrollable stress, following either a CR/PP diet or a protein rich, carbohydrate-poor (PR/CP) isoenergetic diet. Uncontrollable stress reduced feelings of control (F(1,38) 9.30; P = 0.004), whereas pulse rate and skin conductance increased after both stress tasks (F(1,38) 78.34; P = 0.0005 and F(1,37) 83.16; P = 0.0004). Diet, stress-proneness and stress-controllability interacted (F(1,36) 9.46; P = 0.004) in such a way that performance in HS subjects was better with the CR/PP diet than with the PR/CP diet, but only after controllable stress. As the CR/PP diet has been found to increase the plasma tryptophan:large neutral amino acids ratio, indicating an increased availability of cerebral tryptophan and, thus, higher serotonin levels, it appears that there may be an increased availability of brain serotonin in HS subjects after controllable laboratory stress.Chemicals/CAS: Dietary Carbohydrates