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Not drinking enough water can affect the brain

Not drinking enough water can affect the brain

A new American review (July 2018) has revealed how dehydration can affect cognitive function, with just a couple of hours of vigorous activity in the summer heat without drinking fluids enough to affect concentration.

Carried out by the Georgia Institute of Technology, the new meta-analysis looked at 33 studies with 413 subjects in total and focused on the effects of acute dehydration on cognition, which anyone can experience during exertion, heat and/or not drinking.

After statistically analysing the studies, the team found that functions including attention, coordination and complex problem-solving, suffered the most.

The results also showed that the majority of participants increasingly made errors during attention-related tasks that were mostly repetitive and unexciting, such as punching a button.

Activities such as reacting quickly when prompted also diminished, although not as much.

“The simplest reaction time tasks were least impacted, even as dehydration got worse, but tasks that require attention were quite impacted,” said the study’s principal investigator Mindy Millard-Stafford.

“Maintaining focus in a long meeting, driving a car, a monotonous job in a hot factory that requires you to stay alert, are some of them.

“Higher-order functions like doing math or applying logic also dropped off.”

The researchers warned that dehydration could even increase the risk of an accident, for example, in situations that combine heavy sweating and dangerous machinery.

As for when dehydration can occur and cause these mental lapses, the researchers say there is no exact rule.

However, from the studies included in the review, which looked at a 1% to 6% loss of body mass due to dehydration, it seems that more severe impairments start at 2% – a number also found in other related studies.

“There’s already a lot of quantitative documentation that if you lose 2% in water, it affects physical abilities like muscle endurance or sports tasks, and your ability to regulate your body temperature,” said Millard-Stafford, adding that, “If you weigh 200 pounds (90.7kg) and you go work out for a few hours, you drop four pounds (1.81kg), and that’s 2% body mass.”

”If you drop 4% or 5%, you’re going to feel really crummy,” she said. “Water is the most important nutrient.”

However, she warned that you can have too much water. “Some people overly aggressively, out of a fear of dehydration, drink so much water that they dilute their blood and their brain swells”, which can, in extreme cases, lead to death.

She also added that although too much salt is bad for sedentary people or those with high blood pressure, those who are sweating a lot need some salt in order to retain the water they drink.

The results can be found published online in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. – AFP Relaxnews

Growing up in greener neighbourhoods may boost brain development

Growing up in greener neighbourhoods may boost brain development

NEW European research has found that children who have grown up near vast areas of greenspace show larger volumes of white and grey matter in the brain, which could have a beneficial effect on cognitive function.

Led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), in collaboration with the Hospital del Mar (Spain) and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health (UCLA FSPH), the study looked at 253 schoolchildren taking part in the BREATHE project in Barcelona, Spain.

The team estimated the children’s exposure to greenspace in their neighbourhood from birth up through to the time of the study, and assessed brain anatomy using high-resolution 3D magnetic resonance images (MRI). Working memory and inattentiveness were measured with computerised tests.

The results showed that long-term exposure to greenspace was positively associated with volumes of white and grey matter volume in certain areas of the brain, which partly overlap with the areas associated with higher scores on cognitive tests.

In addition, high volumes of white and grey matter in the areas of the brain associated with greenspace exposure also predicted better working memory and reduced inattentiveness.

“This is the first study that evaluates the association between long-term exposure to greenspace and brain structure,” says Dr Payam Dadvand, ISGlobal researcher and leading author of the study. “Our findings suggest that exposure to greenspace early in life could result in beneficial structural changes in the brain.”

The results back up findings from a previous study which also looked at children taking part in the BREATHE project, and showed that those who attended schools with more outdoor greenspace had a greater increase in working memory and a greater reduction in inattentiveness than children who attended schools with less greenspace nearby.

Previous research has also shown that exposure to greenspace and time in nature could also potentially improve academic performance, and reduce stress and aggressive behaviour.

Greenspaces are believed to have a beneficial effect on brain development as they provide children with opportunities for discovery, creativity and risk taking, as well as psychological restoration. They also often have lower levels of pollution and noise and encourage physical activity, all of which can have a positive effect on brain development.

The results of the study are published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. – AFP Relaxnews

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