New study finds link between nutrition and physical, cognitive performance

October 26, 2020
Sebastian Krawiec

A recent study conducted in collaboration with Abbott, University of Illinois, and the U.S. Air Force, found that proper nutrition is directly linked with physical and cognitive performance.

A recent study1 conducted in collaboration with Abbott (Columbus, OH), University of Illinois, and the U.S. Air Force, found that proper nutrition is directly linked with physical and cognitive performance. In the randomized controlled trial, 148 active duty Air Force Airmen were given either two 8 fluid ounce servings per day of a peach-flavored nutrition supplement or placebo 12 weeks during regimen of high-intensity interval aerobic fitness and strength training. The supplement, designed by Abbott, was comprised of protein, β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate (HMB), lutein, phospholipids, DHA and selected micronutrients including B12 and folic acid.

Results showed that physical training alone changed 61% of the assessment metrics. Five out six of the physical fitness measures and four of the eight cognitive measures improved from pre- to post-intervention. The five physical measures were power, strength and endurance, mobility and stability, heart rate and lean muscle mass, and the four cognitive measures were episodic memory, fluid intelligence accuracy, executive function reaction time and processing efficiency.

Physical training with the nutritional supplement intervention resulted in an overall 83% change in assessment metrics. All six physical measures of power, strength and endurance, mobility and stability, heart rate, blood pressure, and lean muscle mass were improved, as well as six of the eight cognitive measures of episodic memory, fluid intelligence accuracy and reaction time, working memory, executive function reaction time and processing efficiency.

“There are a lot of different occupations in the Air Force and many of them require long hours, intense focus and quick and accurate decision-making skills,” said Adam Strang, PhD, human performance research scientist at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, in a press release. “Exercise is well-documented to improve both the body and the brain, and this study shows that we can boost those benefits even further by combining workouts with the right nutrients.”

“This study is important because working memory did not increase with exercise alone, and it’s something that is useful for everyone to manage stressful situations in their daily lives,” explained Matt Kuchan, a research fellow and brain health scientist at Abbott and co-author of the study, in a press release. “It’s what allows us to store and process different pieces of information and then access that information when we need it to make decisions.”

While the target population for this study was the military, the findings will be used to help with product development in civilian applications as well.

Reference

  1. Zwilling CE et al. “Enhanced physical and cognitive performance in active duty Airmen: evidence from a randomized multimodal physical fitness and nutritional intervention.” Scientific Reports, vol. 10 (2020)