Personalised neuro-nutrients: startup brings objectivity to mental health

By Olivia Brown

- Last updated on GMT

Personalised neuro-nutrients: startup brings objectivity to mental health

Related tags personalisation neurotransmitters Mental health diet Nutrition

The startup Healthy-Longer is shining a light on the lack of objectivity in the treatment of mental health conditions, offering at-home urine tests to identify potential neuro-biomarker disruptions and nutrient deficiencies.

The Swiss company offers a personalised nutrition plan with the aim to balance neuro-biomarker levels following the analysis of the test results, aiming to improve mental health and build resilience to stress and anxiety.

Joanna Ledunger, founder and CEO of Healthy-Longer​, explains she identified the area whilst working in insurance and analysing health risk: “This is where I came in contact with longevity issues, and I felt that the potential of data hasn’t been utilised in the health space yet, particularly in mental health.”

“In mental health, diagnostics are done using questionnaires and those basically gather the symptoms from the patients. There are no objective tests like in cardiology where if you have a problem, you have electrocardiograms, ultrasound, you measure heart rate etc.

“I was astonished to see that in mental health there’s no such test for the symptoms. So I was really fascinated by the opportunity to bring the objective data to mental health.”

She explains the company utilises the objective data to demonstrate the importance of the nutrients for the brain and nervous system; areas demanding 20-40% of energy and nutrients we consume.

“We are the first to find correlations between mental issues and symptoms, and the levels of neural biomarkers in the dried urine,” she emphasises.

Ledunger adds that based on the data and evidence the company has accumulated so far, they plan to develop additional functional food products to provide convenient nutritional solutions.

NutraIngredients Europe will host its newly branded Active Nutrition Summit​ in Amsterdam from October 9-11.

An evolution of the brand's prominent annual Sports & Active Nutrition Summit, this year’s event will provide delegates with insights into the increasingly holistic and mass market view of sports nutrition, from some of the leading names in the industry.

Content pillars will cover all the hottest topics in the industry today, including: cognitive health, women’s health, life-stages nutrition, and personalisation

Identifying neuro-biomarkers

As part of Healthy-Longer’s ‘Mental strength and resilience programme’, the company provides four urine tests which are to be completed throughout the day.

Explaining the test’s accuracy, Ledunger says: “We know from discoveries made, mainly over the last five years, that nutrients absorbed by the brain and nervous system produce different substances responsible for different functions, including signalling, thoughts, and emotions.

“These are all eventually extracted in the urine. So, urine is a fantastic metabolic means to analyse what is going on in the nervous system,” she adds.

She highlights recent research​ showing that the total metabolic values of substances in the urine can provide valuable information about mental conditions which are not available by studying only the brain and central nervous system.

The company assesses 21 neuro-biomarkers including dopamine, tryptophan, serotonin, GABA, Tyrosine, and norepinephrine.

Giving the example of dopamine, a hormone responsible for motivation and energy, Ledunger explains that deficiencies are said to correlate​ with depression.

“From different amino acids, like tyrosine, humans produce the substance called DOPA which is eventually converted into dopamine. We then metabolise that into further substances. And through our assessment in the dry urine, we measure the levels of these different substances so we can see where the path is broken.

“Based on that, we can design an intervention so we can add compactors and precursors to repair this particular part of the pathway using nutrients,” she asserts.

Nutritional plan

The company’s subsequent tailored nutritional plan, curated using available scientific evidence​, recommends to actively observe well-being until changes may be noticed at 6-8 weeks. But they emphasise that the diet plan is a long-term, continuous solution.

The plan recommends the addition of one food type per 'basket' for each neuro-nutrient. The baskets range across food categories including nuts, seeds, roots and herbs, legumes and whole-grains, vegetables and fruits, and animal sources.

Patients must choose one option from each 'basket' to obtain the necessary nutrients for the production or breakdown of low or high levels of a specific neuro-biomarker.

For example, to increase production of dopamine, the plan recommends the addition of either 100g cooked green fava beans (Vicia faba) or 100g cooked Mucuna Pruriens (Velvet beans) to their daily diet. To specifically increase tyrosine levels, specified quantities of foods such as chia seeds, cashew nuts, tofu, sun-dried tomatoes, and parmesan are recommended.

For the increased production of GABA, a neurotransmitter noted ​for its calming effects, the plan suggests 2 cups of Japanese green tea per day.

Foods recommended for increasing methionine, a substance with strong antioxidant effects noted ​to improve memory, include a range of nuts and seeds including 50g of hemp seeds, brazil nuts, or pumpkins seeds. In addition, they recommend 100g tofu or 100g cooked soybeans, as well as 50g dried spirulina seaweed from the vegetable 'basket'.

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