Nutrition, brain function and cognitive performance
by
Lieberman HR.
Military Nutrition Division,
US Army Research Institute
of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM),
Natick, MA 01760-5007, USA.
harris.lieberman@na.amedd.army.mil
Appetite. 2003 Jun;40(3):245-54


ABSTRACT

Military interest in the effects of nutritional factors on cognitive function has stimulated considerable research on a variety of food constituents. This paper will review the research on the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine, caffeine and carbohydrate. It will focus on research that addresses the potential utility of these compounds in military applications, particularly the acute, as opposed to chronic, effects of these substances on cognitive functions such as alertness, vigilance and resistance to stress. Caffeine, the most intensively studied food constituent, has unequivocal beneficial effects on vigilance, and in sleep deprived individuals it enhances other cognitive functions as well. Tryptophan, although it clearly has sedative-like properties, has not been extensively studied by military laboratories for use as a hypnotic, due to safety concerns. Tyrosine has been examined in animal models and human studies, and appears to prevent the substantial decline in various aspects of cognitive performance and mood associated with many kinds of acute stress. Carbohydrate supplementation appears to enhance cognitive performance in soldiers engaged in sustained, intense physical activities that expend high levels of energy.

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