The Effect of Chicken Extract on Mood, Cognition and Heart Rate Variability

Abstract: Chicken extract, which is rich in anserine and carnosine, has been widely taken in Asian countries as a traditional remedy with various aims, including attenuation of psychological fatigue. The effects of consuming BRAND’S Essence of Chicken (EOC) or a placebo on 46 young adults’ responses to a standard psychological “stressor” were considered. Heart rate variability (HRV), cortisol responses, mood and cognition were measured at baseline and after ten days supplementation. EOC resulted in feeling less anxious, depressed and confused and more agreeable and clearheaded. A decrease in HRV was observed after EOC but only in females. Cognition and cortisol levels were not influenced by EOC. Findings suggest that EOC may be a promising supplement to improve mood in a healthy population.

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Alex’s Notes: It’s always fun to read unexpected studies like the one at hand. Essence of chicken (EOC) is a chicken meat extract traditionally consumed in Southeast Asia as a nootropic. It consists mainly of proteins and peptides, some of which are found in high concentrations in the human brain, such as carnosine and anserine. Previous research has found that EOC consumption reduces subjective fatigue and improved working memory, which suggests that it may allow for improved mood and recovery following a mental workload. The current study sought to replicate and extend on these findings.

Forty-six normal-weight undergraduate students were recruited for the study (52% women). Their job was to consume 1 bottle (70mL) of EOC or a placebo daily for ten days. Importantly, milk casein was the chosen placebo because it does not contain the main peptides found in EOC, and caramel was added in order to produce a protein content, caloric content, and color similar to EOC. At baseline and after the ten day intervention, participants’ responses to a psychological stressor, cognition, and mood were assessed. During each of these occasions the procedure was as follows: mood and cortisol levels recorded à stress test à mood and cortisol à  cognitive test battery and health questionnaires à cortisol à 45 minute rest à cortisol.

During the stress test, a heart rate monitor was used to track heart rate variability (HRV), which monitors autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity and assesses its reactivity under different conditions. High-frequency (HF) power is thought to reflect parasympathetic activity and predict working memory, attention, and emotional regulation, whereas low-frequency (LF) power represents sympathetic activity.

All the participants were paid £60 for their time, and yet only 65.2% reported consuming all ten drinks as instructed. Still, the remaining persons consumed either eight or nine of their drinks and there was no difference between the groups.

Overall, drinking EOC did not lead to any significant outcomes in cognition. However, the EOC participants reported feeling significantly less depressed and anxious and more confident, clearheaded, and agreeable than the placebo. There was a trend for increased energy levels in the EOC group, which may have become significant with a larger sample size or better compliance. This is actually quite impressive given that the average depression and anxiety ratings were low, indicating that EOC may improve mood in non-depressed or anxious populations.

Cortisol was greatest in all persons when arriving at the lab and declined steadily afterwards, indicating that the psychological stressor wasn’t really that stressful. Granted, it was designed to be mild and imitate daily challenges so we can’t generalize this to more severe challenges. Additionally, there was no indication of ANS activity in males, but females who consumed the EOC had a greater LF/HF ratio suggesting either an increased sympathetic activity or decreased ANS activity.

Bottom line

Essence of chicken is not really something that I personally would have thought could improve mood. It makes me wonder how well the effects translate to just eating chicken. Chinese medicine is wise, after all, and perhaps it is the chicken breast and broccoli meals of bodybuilders that are keeping them sane.


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