• Mood Foods to Boost the Movie Experience by Dr Jack Lewis

    I recently did a little digging around in the scientific and medical literature for clues to foods that could boost mood in a way that might enhance various movie viewing experiences. I promised those who were listening to radio interviews I did across the UK that I would post these findings in my monthly brain blog, so here you go… ;-)

    The basic premise of these recommendations is that many people these days feed themselves almost exclusively on highly processed foods. Sadly such diets often lack certain vital nutrients that are critical for the production of important brain chemicals. Different neurotransmitters systems are fundamental to the generation of different brain states (i.e. mood / emotional responses to events in the outside world). The idea is that eating the right foods will ensure there is a plentiful supply of all the relevant chemical messengers when the brain requires them to produce the appropriate emotional state.

    What’s usually missing from people’s diet, in this regard, is either the basic raw materials from which complex messenger chemicals like the neurotransmitters noradrenaline, serotonin, dopamine and hormones like testosterone are actually built from and/or certain trace elements, such as copper, zinc and magnesium, which are a vital component of the enzymes that enable those raw chemical building blocks to be converted into the relevant neurotransmitters / hormones.

    Below is a brief account of moods that may be enhanced by including certain key ingredients to ensure that all the necessary chemical messengers are available when needed, plus movie genres that I suggest might be boosted if these ingredients are included in a meal consumed prior to watching your chosen film.

    Aim: To enhance the viewing experience of five different film genres by eating specific foods.

    Method: Published research in the scientific literature was reviewed to identify foods that could influence brain states to increase enjoyment of a film by:

    • Increasing excitement – to boost the enjoyment of ACTION movies
    • Increasing happiness– to boost the enjoyment of COMEDIES
    • Increasing focus – to boost the enjoyment of DOCUMENTARY / DRAMAS
    • Increasing anxiety – to boost the enjoyment of HORROR movies
    • Increasing libido – to boost the enjoyment of ROMANTIC films

    Results: Various foods have been identified for which evidence exists to indicate that they impact certain aspects of body and/ or brain physiology in such a way as to potentially influence a person’s emotional state:

    • The following meal may boost excitement of ACTION movies by increasing noradrenaline availability (which mediates the effects of the sympathetic nervous system i.e. increasing heart rate, dilating pupils, dilating blood vessels of muscles in preparation for fight or flight) via a large dose of l-phenylalanine (building block of dopamine) & traces of the mineral copper (vital to the function of the enzyme dopamine-beta-decarboxylasewhich catalyses the conversion of dopamine into noradrenaline), e.g.:
      • Chicken, beef, or tofu pasta with sundried tomatoes, basil and cashew nuts
    • Meal elevating mirth-levels with l-phenylalanine for extra brain dopamine plus nitrates (converted into nitrites by bacteria that live in everyone’s mouth) to enhance nitric oxide release (which dilates blood vessels when you laugh at a funny scene) throughout the brain for COMEDY, e.g.:
      • Beefburger and sweet potato chips served with beetroot, celery & coleslaw
    • Meal enabling sustained focus using slow-release carbohydrates (rather than fast-release carbohydrates which induces the “sugar roller coaster“), powerful stimulating flavours (to activate the reticular activating systems to jolt your brain awake), plus a peppermint dessert (improving sustained attention), ideal for DOCS & DRAMAS:
      • Lemon, chilli fish served with on brown rice, seasonal vegetable, nuts & seeds
    • Meals high in protein/fat and low in carbohydrades (i.e. Atkins diet-esque foods) to eliminate the comforting influence of foods rich in carbohydrate (potato, pasta etc which causes elevated levels of brain serotonin) plus stimulants (e.g. coffee) to get your heart beating faster to provide for a more anxious frame of mind to scare you witless during a HORROR:
      • All day English breakfast fry up (without bread), followed by a strong coffee
      • Scaredy cats may wish to do the exact reverse to make the horror less, er, horrifying
    • Meal rich in cholesterol (raw material from which testosterone is produced) and nutrients (rich in zinc and magnesiumviital for the enzymes involved in testosterone synthesis) that maximises availability of testosterone to make a ROMANTIC film more emotionally-arousing (well, erotic to be precise):
      • Lamb satay with edamame, broccoli, garlic & coriander with egg fried rice
      • or a Creamy (dairy is a good source of cholesterol), Beef (rich in zinc), Curry (coriander is rich in magnesium)

    As you may be able to tell from these suggested dishes – I ain’t no chef! So feel free to re-organise the suggested ingredients to your own taste…

    Please don’t leave a comment because I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve lost the battle against the spambots. I have to wade through 500 spam messages before I find a real one, so if you do wish to comment please do so on Twitter. If you wish to follow @DrJackLewis on Twitter then you will be privy to thrice daily #braintweets – I sift through all the breaking brain news tweeting only those articles that I deem to be reliable, relevant and compelling, thus worthy of your attention…

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