Combatting Diet Crabbiness

Dieting can wreck havoc on your nerves and cause mood swings, especially in those in-between-meal moments.

diet crabbinessThat is why eating several small meals spread out throughout the day is a good idea to help manage these mood swings and keep your blood sugars level.

Mood swings are caused by fluctuations in serotonin levels in the brain, which often occur when someone hasn’t eaten or is stressed out. Research out of the University of Cambridge is now showing that these same regions of the brain affected by serotonin levels are the same regions of the brain that control anger.

Although reduced serotonin levels have previously been implicated in aggression, this is the first study to show how this chemical helps regulate behavior in the brain as well as why some individuals may be more prone to aggression. The research findings were published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Researchers altered the diets of the people participating in this study from serotonin-depleted days with no tryptophan to placebo days with normal amounts of tryptophan. This protein, tryptophan, is needed for the production of serotonin. Reactions to this manipulated diet were scanned via MRI images and notes were taken on behavioral changes, particularly in facial expressions.

“Using the fMRI, they were able to measure how different brain regions reacted and communicated with one another when the volunteers viewed angry faces, as opposed to sad or neutral faces.”

The MRI showed regions of the brain that were affected by low serotonin levels to experience weaker signals that control emotional responses to anger.

The subjects of this study were pre-screened to determine their normal response to anger and aggression. Those who exhibited higher levels of anger were affected worse by the lower levels of serotonin and the absence of tryptophan in their diets.

Dr Molly Crockett, co-first author who worked on the research while a PhD student at Cambridge’s Behavioral and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (and currently based at the University of Zurich) said:

“We’ve known for decades that serotonin plays a key role in aggression, but it’s only very recently that we’ve had the technology to look into the brain and examine just how serotonin helps us regulate our emotional impulses. By combining a long tradition in behavioral research with new technology, we were finally able to uncover a mechanism for how serotonin might influence aggression.”

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