|04-24-2006, 03:14 PM||#1|
Just got this in my email from Standard Process, a whole-food supplement company and thought I would share. I don't have a link to send you to, so I'm pasting it right below:
OMEGA3 FATS -- A MISSING LINK TO BRAIN POWER?
by Judith A. DeCava, CNC, LNC
North Americans have the unique distinction of having some of the lowest
brain levels of omega-3 fats (specifically, DHA) compared with people in most
other countries in the world.
This is a problem.
As you will see, this is a mental as well as a physical problem. Among their
many important roles for health, fats serve three crucial functions for the
brain and nervous system:
* Building the structure of nerves
* Building the brain itself!
* Supporting brain messengers
We must have fat to complete the chemistry of cell membranes that act like
the computer keyboard for each cell. Healthy cells need two types of
essential fats: omega-3 and omega-6. Because the body can't make these fats,
we have to eat them in food. "I do eat food!" you say, "so why am I deficient
in these fats?" Primarily because of the way foods are raised and processed
nowadays and because our diets have declined in quality.
Feed your fat head! The human brain is one of the most complicated structures
in Nature. And it is mostly fat — a very meticulously and beautifully
organized system of various types of fatty molecules. The "white matter
pathway" to the brain is about 60% fat. Most of the brain pathways that are
used to think, feel, remember, and act are encased or wrapped in fat - like
the insulated coating on electrical wires. These brain conduits - or white
matter pathways - connect and coordinate our thoughts, emotions, and
behavior. Omega-3s and omega-6s also make up 34% of the fat found in the
synaptic (point of junction between nerve cells) membranes of the brain and
rest of the nervous system and are thus critical to neuronal (nerve)
functioning. A deficiency of omega-3s can therefore cut back on the ability
of the brain cells to "communicate" with each other properly. Omega-3 fatty
acids comprise 30% of the gray matter in the brain. Unfortunately, we are
consuming less omega-3s and more omega-6s (mostly in a refined, altered
state), disturbing the proper ratio, and adversely affecting brain function.
A shortage or imbalance of omega-3 fats is being linked with numerous brain
and nervous system problems including depression, moodiness, anxiety,
multiple sclerosis, ADHD (attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder),
autism, dyslexia, other learning disorders, fatigue, weakness, Alzheimer's
disease and other forms of dementia, seizures (epilepsy), memory loss,
unwarranted personality change, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and
Parkinson's disease. Actually about 50 different deleterious conditions of
the brain show evidence that, in some way, they are related to omega-3 fatty
acid deficiency and/or respond to omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. The
list will no doubt continue to grow. A deficit of omega-3 fats may not be the
ONLY cause of these problems, but it can certainly be one of the most
commonly missed links. A failure to conquer common symptoms such as dwindling
brain power or resistant depression or fatigue can be due to the need for
this essential fatty acid group.
During pregnancy and while nursing, it is especially important for women to
get adequate amounts of omega-3s because babies draw on their supply. But
since American women are getting less omega-3s in their diets, they have
lower levels in their breast milk, so they have babies with lower levels than
ideal. Until recently, baby formulas did not contain appropriate omega-3
fats; now some do.
Omega-3s are critical for the development of the brain and rest of the
nervous system. From the time a baby is born to about its first year, the
brain roughly triples in size. Since that brain is built primarily of fat, it
requires a pretty hefty amount of the correct fatty acids! This period of
time is critical for the baby to get the right kinds of fats. Then if you
compound the problem with an inadequate amount throughout life, you can begin
to understand the toll that omega-3 insufficiency might take on the nervous
system or brain.
Pregnant women who consume cold-water fish (a good source of omega-3s) have
babies with higher cognition (mental ability, awareness) than women who do
not eat fish. And the improved thinking ability shows up later in life too -
a good nutritional foundation always pays off! Moms need to eat fish with
lower mercury contamination since mercury lowers infant thinking abilities.
Newborns whose mothers had consumed adequate amounts of omega-3s during
pregnancy showed healthier sleep patterns and greater nervous system maturity
than those who did not. Disturbed sleep patterns in newborns indicate
disrupted brain/nerve development.
Head Start - Your Baby's IQ
Omega-3s given to babies raises their IQs, improves visual acuity, and
increases overall nerve development. Deficiencies of omega-3s are linked to
fetal alcohol syndrome, cystic fibrosis, ADHD, PKU, depression, aggressive
hostility, and brain abnormalities. Omega-3 fats are required for the
protective covering of nerves (myelination) and communication between nerve
cells (synaptic function and signalizing). The effects are seen in various
measures of learning ability, problem solving, and mental capacities.
Deficits of omega-3s contribute to the increases in the number of children
with learning disabilities, dyslexia, and ADHD. Supplementation with omega-3s
and other fatty acids reduce ADHD symptoms in children with learning
difficulties. Children with neurological problems show considerable
improvement after receiving supplements of omega-3 fats, indicating that food
sources are taken up and used by the brain or other nerve tissues, and can
actually change brain or nerve structure and function.
Omega-3 fats are not just kid stuff! We need them throughout life. Mood,
cognitive ability, and behavior can all be affected by a deficit or
imbalance. As a woman has more children, her own levels of omega-3s drop and
this contributes to depression - postpartum depression - as her levels
decline with each pregnancy. It is also partly responsible for the beginning
of a decline of health in many women after their second baby. Chronic
fatigue, fibromyalgia, chemical sensitivities, and other conditions commonly
develop after the birth of a second or third child.
Anyone with memory loss, depression, unusual moodiness, unwarranted
personality change, or just not feeling as smart as they used to, may need
more omega-3 fats. Increasing omega-3s can reduce the symptoms of depression,
anxiety, seizures, age-associated memory loss, anti-social or violent
behavior, and even some psychiatric illnesses like bipolar disorder and
schizophrenia. Evidently, omega-3s regulate stress mediators, have a calming
effect on the nervous system, and enhance "feel-good" hormones. Too many
omega-6s and too little omega-3s dampen the soothing, calming, "happy"
How can you get more omega-3 fats? First of all, reduce or eliminate trans
fats and fried foods from your diet. If you see "partially hydrogenated" on a
label, avoid that item like the plague! Processed foods (loaded with trans
fats) and deep-fried foods interfere with the conversion of ALA into EPA and
DHA. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is the "parent molecule" of EPA and DHA. Your
body should convert ALA to EPA (eicosatetraenoic acid) and DHA
(docosahexaenoic acid). But trans fats and other factors interfere with this
ALA is primarily found in plant foods like flax seeds, flaxseed oil, hemp
seed and oil, many whole grains, walnuts, and green vegetables (like spinach,
arugula, and dark lettuces). Infants, folks with diabetes, pituitary or
thyroid imbalances, cancer, and some other health problems can have trouble
making the conversions. Since animals convert ALA (from plants they eat) to
EPA and DHA, animal foods are good sources of the already-formed EPA and DHA
types. Fatty cold-water fish, tuna oil, cod liver oil, krill oil, fish eggs,
organic organ meats (such as liver, kidney), raw milk products from grass-fed
cattle, and egg yolks (from free-range chickens that feed on green vegetation
and insects or are fed flax meal, algae, and fish meal) are all good sources
of EPA and DHA. Seaweeds and algae actually contain a bit of EPA and DHA,
though not as much as animal foods.
Farmed fish are not nearly as rich in omega-3s and often contain toxins.
Since pollutants like mercury, PCBs, dioxins, pesticides, DDT, etc., are now
common in ocean fish - more so in fresh-water fish - it is smart to be picky!
Cold-water fish tend to be safer than warm-water fish; younger fish are safer
than older fish. Grass-fed (pasture-fed) beef is a lot higher in EPA and DHA,
whereas commercial (and some organically raised, non-grass fed) beef comes
from grain-fed, unnaturally raised cattle containing far less omega-3s. Milk
products from organically raised, grass-fed animals have up to 71% more
omega-3s than regular milk products. Good quality cod liver oil is difficult
to find but well worth a search. Algae or seaweed supplements are an option
for vegetarians. There are EPA/DHA fish oil capsules available, but keep in
mind that nutrients come in complexes - complete packages - with other
nutrients. There are other omega-3 fatty acids and other useful nutrients and
food factors in whole fish oil, whole algae, and other whole foods that you
don't get in EPA/DHA capsules alone. It's a good idea to use the whole food!
What You and a Vegetarian Have in Common
A number of nutrients - such as vitamin complexes A, B3, B6, B12, C, and E,
magnesium, zinc, certain amino acids, other fatty acids, etc. - are needed to
convert ALA to EPA and DHA. Deficiencies in any of these nutrients can also
make it difficult to get the "finished" products you need.
Although converting ALA is important, research indicates that ALA itself has
many healthful roles to play. And recent research shows that people on a
vegetarian or even a vegan diet can have a lower (than meat eaters) but
stable concentration of EPA and DHA in their blood. In other words, they can
get enough ALA from their diets and they can usually convert it to EPA and
DHA. They need to be diligent about getting plenty of those green vegetables,
walnuts, whole grains, flaxseeds, algae, and other good sources.
First and foremost, remember that it is the QUALITY of the fat in your diet,
not the amount of fat, which is most important. Good quality, unaltered,
fresh fats already HAVE a decent ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.
Still, you may need to boost your intake of omega-3s to catch up due to a
deficit that developed over time. Feeding yourself and your children
organically raised, fresh, whole, REAL foods should be something you do NOW
and throughout the future.
Considering that 60% of our brain tissue is composed of fat, and considering
how important fats are to brain function, we obviously were all meant to be
"fat heads." Feed that head well!
HOW TO BOOST YOUR OMEGA-3 FAT INTAKE
* Eat organically raised, "free-range" meats since these animals have
grazed on plants high in omega-3 fats. Organic organ meats are especially
good sources. Raw milk products from pasture-fed, organically raised animals
are much richer in omega-3s than "regular" types.
* Eat eggs from "cage-free" or "free-range" hens. Some farms are now
feeding their hens omega-3 rich foods.
* Eat a variety of dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale,
collards, arugula, dandelion greens, broccoli rabe, purslane, dark lettuces.
* Eat cold-water fish regularly, preferably deep-ocean fish. Most
farm-raised fish should be avoided. Other fish, shellfish, and mollusks also
contain omega-3s. Salmon, sardines, bluefish, herring, mackerel, trout, tuna,
whitefish, Atlantic cod, shrimp, and halibut are good sources.
* Get some walnuts, hemp seeds, and legumes (such as kidney beans) into
* Supplement with ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil (since it becomes
rancid quickly, make sure it is fresh and refrigerated), microalgae, and
* Supplement with tuna oil (make sure it is not refined so that important
nutrients are not depleted) such as Standard Process' Tuna Omega-3 Oil.
* Avoid all partially hydrogenated fats including shortening, margarine,
and those found in non-dairy creamers, crackers, pre-packaged baked foods,
and other processed items.
* Eat ONLY good quality, unrefined, un-tampered with, fresh fats and
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