With the hustle and bustle of modern society, we too often forget to prioritise our health and wellbeing. For example, almost three-quarters of adults don’t eat the recommended ‘5-a-day’ of fruit and vegetables, therefore making much of the population vulnerable to deficiencies.
Obtaining the recommended quantities of micronutrients, i.e. vitamins and minerals, is crucial for bodily functions like energy production, immunity, bone health and the cardiovascular system.
A balanced diet is generally always recommended for meeting recommended daily micronutrient intakes. Fortunately, supplements can offer a way to meet nutritional shortfalls.
Research suggests, however, that a consistent supply of nutrients is needed to see a benefit. This is particularly the case for water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin B and vitamin C since these are not stored in the body. Therefore, consistent daily intake of these nutrients is necessary to ensure the efficacy of a supplement.
The scientific background
An article in the medical journal BMC Psychology affirms the long-established idea that contextual cues help encode information in long-term memory. The skill is a natural cognitive process that begins in infanthood.
A popular exercise in child language acquisition, for example, is to assist children with picture books. The images act as a contextual cue, which helps toddlers memorise words connected with the pictures.
Contextual cues aren’t only for infants, however. As well as aiding language development, contextual cues could also make new routines into habits.
In the exploratory study published by BMC Psychology, 39 subjects took Vitamin C supplements every day for three weeks. When asked about how they managed to remember their daily intake, researchers discovered that participants’ contextual cues had specific characteristics. The signals used by participants were of minimal effort and generally took the form of keeping related objects close to them. For example, one subject kept the supplements next to their contraceptive pills.
Less effective methods used by participants were those that were loosely defined cues that were too unrelated to prompt taking the vitamin.
The crucial takeaway from the study, therefore, is the selection of cues. For example, merely setting a phone alert at 1pm likely will not prompt you to take your multivitamin. Instead, it will either be ignored or leave you wondering why you set the alert.
The relationship between contextual cues is what gives them their strength. For example, swallowing your multivitamin with a daily protein shake may make sense to you. Alternatively, including it with your daily medication or skincare routine may provoke your memory as such tasks are similarly associated with self-care.
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