IN MY LAST POST I talked about eating patterns. I’d like to say a bit more about that. Let’s talk about Omgea-3 fatty acids.
Let’s review some new research on DHA. DHA, docosahexanoic acid, is a PUFA, an Omega-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). It is an essential acid, or in other words, we cannot manufacture that in our own bodies. We have to consume it. We get it from animal sources, or we can consume ALA, alpha linolenic acid. ALA is a short-chain PUFA that our bodies can convert into DHA and EPA, eicosapenanoic acid. They are anti-inflammatory, in that they quench the inflammation that can cause heart disease, asthma, arthritis, strokes, all of the inflammations that end with “itis” like dermatitis. Many psychiatrists are looking at depression as an inflammatory disease.
Most people don’t know anything about DHA, but it is vital for a high functioning brain. And we aren’t getting much of it at all. That is because over the past fifty years, the content of our food has dramatically changed. ALA is present in green vegetation, and throughout most of human existence, we ate animals that had eaten grass and browse (shrubs). Milk, meat, cheese, and eggs were all rich in DHA and EPA because they came from animals fed on grass. Those animals did a good job of changing ALA into DHA and EPA, and we were more healthy because of it.
But in the 1970s we began to eat animals that were fed not on grass and greens but rather on corn and soy. Those are high in Omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory. Our body needs inflammation so as to deal with injuries and infection. But because we feed our food animals such huge amounts of grains and soy, we consume huge doses of Omega-6 and little Omega-3. We are in a continual state of inflammation. Wikipedia on inflammation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflammation.
So I encourage people to shift their diets much more toward healthy sources of Omega-3s, including fatty ocean fish, the best being Alaska salmon, since it is against the law in Alaska to farm-raise salmon. Mackerel, sardines, tuna, all fish that are darker in color are good Omega-3 sources. Of course, if you eat grass-fed beef, if you can find a local source of “pastured”chicken (not organic, which are simply chickens fed organic corn), your diet will be much healthier.
A new study from UCLA shows that high-fructose corn syrup (the sweetener that is widely used in all manufactured foods) makes us stupid. A high sugar diet (table sugar is about 40% fructose, and high fructose corn syrup is about 55% fructose) slows down the brain and hampers learning and memory. Fructose is in baby food, applesauce, ketchup and other condiments, soft drinks . . . in fact, if you buy a manufactured food, it is everywhere. Now we know why we keep eating it. It is everywhere. We eat it. Our brains don’t work as well. We are made more dumb, so we don’t notice how bad it is for us.
“Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think,” said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a professor of integrative biology and physiology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. “Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information. But adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimize the damage.”
So if you want to eat sugary foods, at least eat some salmon to go with it. But even with the omega-3, you are doing some damage. The better path is to avoid all sweets. All those years ago my mother told me that sugar was bad for me. As it happens, she was right.
If you want to read the study’s press release, here is it: http://bit.ly/Ja70nT
So shift your eating to locally produced pastured chickens and grass-fed beef, local vegetables, and whole grains. In the words of the great poet/singer/songwriter, Joni Mitchell, “And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”