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Child's brain development permanently affected by this one type of food!

Here’s a study that no pregnant mother should read unless they want to send themselves into a stress response and destroy all that lovely pregnancy Zen they have been cultivating!

Maternal dietary imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids impairs neocortical development via epoxy metabolites

You can read it all here if you think you might want to get pregnant any time soon! http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/stem.2246/full

It’s a pretty dense read but in a nutshell it says:

  1. The final positioning of our brain cells is set for life very early in embryonic gestation.
  2. This process is determined by nutritional factors (...Ya don’t say!!)
  3. One common way for the process to go wrong (common in the western world that is) is because of our very top heavy consumption of Omega 6 oils in comparison to Omega 3.

The paper also mentions the very interesting “developmental origins of health and disease” hypothesis which says that “that nutrition in early life stages determines the risk of onset of various diseases in adulthood”.  In other words how we are nourished as embryos and as kids has a HUGE effect on our disease risks later on.

Think about this for a minute…it is saying that if we get our kids nutrition wrong from the get-go they are going to suffer badly as they age…and there is little we can do about it after the fact.

I hate this idea but I have to reluctantly agree that it seems pretty spot on.

I do challenge the second part of the hypothesis though….the part that says there is precious little we can do about it.

Here’s why:

Studies do indeed show that poor nutrition in early life (the now famous first 1000 days) has a big impact on us as we age.  But these studies largely relate to people who continue as they started off…in other words if they start off on a poor diet they tend to continue eating a poor diet…and hey presto they eventually get a disease.

Studies don’t show that if those same people began to eat a healthy diet they still go on to get diseases.  Studies don’t show this because it’s hard to find enough people to do these kind of studies on…that’s all!

I maintain that whilst a lot of harm is done by virtue of eating nutrient poor diets it is still possible to roll a good portion of it back once you become smart to the fact.  I can’t ‘prove’ this of course but if you put several Nutritional Therapists is a room and hear their stories you would be filled with awe at the healing power of the human body.  People do get better very often when they nourish their bodies.

But going back to the paper above...if we eat too much omega 6 oil (and most of us are) we develop a complicated imbalance that affects our whole body, but in particular if mom’s diet is lopsided in favour of omega 6 it affects the brain development of gestating embryos, and this effect will persist for life.  The paper is saying that the imbalance gives rise to a complicated milieu of metabolic by-products that alter the very process that determines where baby’s brain cells end up in the skull.  Think about the blob of a foetus that eventually grows a brain...and all the magic that has to occur to orchestrate the migration of those tiny cells to the exact right place in the brain!  As incredible as it is the process can be disturbed by having too much Omega 6 and too little Omega 3.

Exactly what the end result is of having your brain cells end up in the wrong place is not fully elucidated in the paper but it hints at cognitive impairment.

Enough of the heavy stuff...what’s the takeaway message?

Quit eating processed vegetable oils and any foods with that stuff added to it and add some flax seeds and oily fish to your diet.  That’s pretty much it!

All those so called healthy polyunsaturated oils we are told to eat to protect our heart...they are all omega 6 oils...and to boot they are all over-heated and rancid.  It's the rancidity that has some scientists questioning if it is not the omega 6’s themselves but rather the fact that they are over-heated that is the real problem, but that’s a topic for another day.

The quickest way to rectify an omega imbalance is to drop all processed oils, cut drastically back on the quantity of grains you eat (grains contain mostly Omega 6 oils), and take high quality cod liver or salmon oil for a few months.  I used the words High Quality on purpose there...most of the stuff on sale is not high quality and the evidence is mounting that low quality (ie carelessly manufactured) Omega 3 oils can drive a whole other set of problems in the body.  It’s serious stuff!

I’m not going to openly advertise other people’s products here so if you want my top recommendations for these supplements drop me an email with the subject line Brendan, Tell Me Where I Can Buy The Best Omega 3 Oils...and I’ll email you the answer!  (I don’t sell them!)

Yours in health

Brendan

About Brendan O'Brien

Nutritional Therapist - Male & Female Fertility Support Specialist

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