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Why living in a big city requires more brain food

There's nothing like big city living—but what is the effect on our brains?

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Sophie Medlin
Sophie Medlin
Head of Nutritional Research
February 18, 2020
3 min read

Urban Lifestyle

Many factors associated with city living increase our requirements for brain essential nutrients. Air pollution is known to increase our risk of many chronic diseases like lung and heart problems. Oxidative stress is one of the key reasons that air pollution is so bad for our health. Essential functions in the brain are affected by our levels of oxidative stress. This includes regulating our mood , and our learning and memory by inhibiting neurogenesis or neuroplasticity. Antioxidants such as vitamins E and C and polyphenols such as anthocyanins help to neutralise the oxidative damage that is caused by air pollution in cities. Depleted vitamin D stores are far more likely in urban areas due to our reliance on public transport and indoor working reducing the likelyhood of adequate sun exposure.

Vitamin D is essential to optimal brain function due to it’s ability to reduce inflammation and limit the formation of deposits in the brain.

It's all about the B

High stress levels associated with city living is a nutritionally costly process. Every cell in our body requires the full compliment of B vitamins to maintain adequate energy. When we are constantly maintaining high stress levels we use up our vitamin stores more quickly. When we exercise, this requirement increases furtherAdd to this the desire of many to reduce animal products which are a key source of B vitamins and it is clear that many of us are less likely to be meeting our B vitamin needs. B vitamin deficiencies are known to cause symptoms like lethargy, low mood and brain fog.  Urban living often means that we are relying on foods that are quick to get on the go and fruit and vegetables that may have sat on the shelves for a few days. This reduces the nutrient quality as many vitamins reduce with time and sunlight exposure.

Taking a good quality vitamin supplement can compensate for the deficits that happen when home cooking isn’t a priority.

Supplements Vs Food

Of course, eating a well balanced diet every day with plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds and lean protein with plenty of oily fish is the ideal way to get all of the nutrients that you need. Unfortunately, for most of us, ensuring that our diets are perfectly balanced is not a daily priority. Having a good quality nutritional supplement acts as an insurance policy for those times when your diet takes a back seat. This doesn’t mean that having a vitamin supplement replaces the need for a healthy diet. More that it can top you up if you have fallen short. While scepticism of vitamin supplements exists, anyone who has worked in clinical nutrition will have seen that oral vitamin supplementation corrects deficiencies and significantly improves outcomes and quality of life. While most people who eat a balanced diet won’t have deficiencies, when we add the burden of the urban lifestyle, we can see that it is easy for many of us to miss out on some of our requirements.

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