94216 January 2006 - BBC News - Mental health link to diet changemental health; diet and mood; depression; despair; Changes to diets over the last 50 years may be playing a key role in the rise of mental illness, a study says.16/01/2006
Food campaigners Sustain and the Mental Health Foundation say the way food is now produced has altered the balance of key nutrients people consume.
The period has also seen the UK population eating less fresh food and more saturated fats and sugars.
They say this is leading to depression and memory problems, but food experts say the research is not conclusive.
Dr Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: "We are well aware of the effect of diet upon our physical health.
"But we are only just beginning to understand how the brain as an organ is influenced by the nutrients it derives from the foods we eat and how diets have an impact on our mental health."
And he added that addressing mental health problems with changes in diet was showing better results in some cases than using drugs or counselling.
The report, Feeding Minds, pointed out the delicate balance of minerals, vitamins and essential fats consumed had changed in the past five decades.
Researchers said the proliferation of industrialised farming had introduced pesticides and altered the body fat composition of animals due to the diet they are now fed.
For example, the report said chickens reach their slaughter weight twice as fast as they did 30 years ago, increasing the fat content from 2% to 22%.
The diet has also altered the balance of vital fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 in chickens which the brain needs to ensure it functions properly.
In contrast, saturated fats, consumption of which has been increasing with the boom in ready meals, act to slow down the brain's working process.
The report said people were eating 34% less vegetables and two-thirds less fish - the main source of omega-3 fatty acids - than they were 50 years ago.
Such changes, the study said, could be linked to depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer's disease.
The two groups urged people to adopt healthier diets, with more fresh vegetables, fruit and fish, and called on the government to raise awareness about the issue.
Report researcher Courtney Van de Weyer said: "The good news is that the diet for a healthy mind is the same as the diet for a healthy body.
"The bad news is that, unless there is a radical overhaul of food and farming policies there won't be healthy and nutritious foods available in the future for people to eat."
Rebecca Foster, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, said: "The evidence associating mental health and nutrient intake is in its infancy, this is a very difficult association to research and in many cases results are subjective.
"Therefore, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the association between mental illness and dietary intake at this point.
"However, the nutrient recommendations outlined in this report are in line with recommendations for good health, which should continue to be advocated by all health professionals."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4610070.stmRead the BBC News Website article here_41163510_despair203.jpg
94116 January 2006 - News Release - New reports link mental ill-health to changing dietsmental health and diet; food and mood; food and behaviour; food intolerances; psychiatry; mental illness; depressionAs new figures show that mental ill-health is costing the UK almost £100 billion a year, evidence released today by the Mental Health Foundation and Sustain reveals that changes to the human diet in the last fifty years or so could be an important factor behind the major rise of mental ill-health in the UK.16/01/2006
New reports link mental ill-health to changing diets
A body of evidence linking the impact of diet on mood and behaviour has been growing for many years. Now scientific evidence, published today, reveals that food can have an immediate and lasting effect upon a person's mental health and behaviour because of the way it affects the structure and function of the brain.
Significant changes in the way food is produced and manufactured have not only reduced the amounts of essential fats, vitamins and minerals consumed, but have also disturbed the balance of nutrients in the foods eaten. The proliferation of industrialised farming has introduced pesticides and altered the body fat composition of animals due to the diets they are now fed. As a result, the population's intake of omega-3 fatty acids has decreased whilst the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids has increased. According to the research, this unequal intake combined with a lack of vitamins and minerals is associated with depression, concentration and memory problems.
At the same time, the UK population is consuming less nutritious, fresh produce and more saturated fats and sugars. According to the Mental Health Foundation and Sustain, new substances, such as pesticides, additives and trans-fats have also been introduced to the diet. These, alone and in combination, can prevent the brain from functioning effectively.
There have also been remarkable changes in the way that the population prepares and cooks food. The research shows that only 29 per cent of 15-24 year olds report eating a meal made from scratch every day, compared to 50 per cent of those aged over 65. It is also reported that a high proportion of younger people are eating insufficient amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, instead eating unhealthy foods including ready meals and takeaways.
Amino acids are vital to good mental health. Neurotransmitters in the brain are made from amino acids, many of which need to be derived from the diet. A deficiency in certain amino acids can lead to feelings of depression, apathy and leave a person feeling unmotivated and unable to relax.
The two charities assert that many nutrients can improve a person's mental health, and dietary changes may hold the key to combating specific mental health problems including depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Alzheimer's disease.
Dr Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, says: 'We are well aware of the effect of diet upon our physical health, but we are only just beginning to understand how the brain, as an organ, is influenced by the nutrients it derives from the foods we eat, and how our diets have an impact on our mental health. This evidence raises a number of important questions and concerns for us all, but the knowledge gives individuals the power to make decisions that will benefit them and future generations. On a larger scale, our Government cannot ignore the growing burden of mental ill health in the UK and must look to nutrition as an option in helping people to manage their mental health problems. The potential rewards, in economic terms, and in terms of alleviating human suffering, are enormous.'
Courtney Van de Weyer, researcher on the Feeding Minds campaign at Sustain, added: 'The good news is that the diet for a healthy mind is the same as the diet for a health body. The bad news is that, unless there is a radical overhaul of food and farming policies - particularly on fish - there won't be healthy and nutritious foods available in the future for people to eat.'
The two charities have joined forces on the Feeding Minds campaign to raise awareness of the links between diet and mental health, and are asking Government to increase financial and political support for measures to ensure that sustainable supplies of a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods are available, affordable and attractive for people to obtain both now and in the future. They are also calling on the Government to incorporate the link between diet and mental health into all food-related policy and practice.
REPORT KEY FINDINGS
Over the last 60 years there has been a 34 per cent decline in UK vegetable consumption with currently only 13 per cent of men and 15 per cent of women now eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
People in the UK eat 59 per cent less fish - the main source of omega 3 fatty acids - than they did 60 years ago.
Some foods damage the brain by releasing toxins or oxidants that harm healthy brain cells. There are many more nutrients that serve the brain without deception or damage, which can improve mood and mental well-being.
A balanced mood and feelings of well being can be protected by ensuring that a diet provides adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals and water.
Research indicates that good nutritional intake may be linked to academic success. A number of studies report that providing children with breakfast improves their daily and long-term academic performance.
Among some young offenders, diets supplemented with vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids have resulted in significant and remarkable reductions in anti-social behaviour.
Mental health problems
There is growing evidence that diet plays an important contributory role in specific mental health problems including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease.
The presentation of depression in the UK population has increased dramatically over recent decades and this has been accompanied by a decrease in the age of onset, with more cases being reported in children, adolescents and young adults.
The incidence of schizophrenia is similar across the globe, although there are differences in outcomes between countries. This implies that environmental factors have some role in determining the duration and severity of symptoms, and the role that diet has to play is attracting increasing scientific interest.
Alzheimer's disease has become more common in the past fifty years and is believed to be the result of a combination of factors, including the aging population, genetics and environmental factors. Growing epidemiological evidence suggests that diet may be one of those environmental factors with associations being reported between the occurrence of Alzheimer's and high saturated fat, consumption, and low vitamin and mineral consumption.
Complementary mental health care services that focus on diet and nutrition report promising results, particularly among those who experience ADHD and depression. On the whole however, they are poorly funded and have received insufficient research attention to draw firm conclusions.
National opinion poll findings
Women report eating healthy foods, including fresh vegetables, fruit or fruit juice and meals made from scratch, more often than men, who tend to eat more takeaways and ready meals.
Younger people are more likely than older people to report daily mental health problems, as are those in social class DE, those on a lower income, those who are not in paid employment and those who are not married.
Nearly two thirds of those who do not report daily mental health problems eat fresh fruit or fruit juice every day, compared with less than half of those who do report daily mental health problems. This pattern is similar for fresh vegetables and salad.
Those who report some level of mental health problem also eat fewer healthy foods (fresh fruit and vegetables, organic foods and meals made from scratch) and more unhealthy foods (chips and crisps, chocolate, ready meals and takeaways).
The Mental Health Foundation is the leading UK charity working to improve services for both people with mental health problems and people with learning disabilities. It is the only charity to fund and work with both service users and providers and plays an important role in funding research and new approaches to promotion, treatment and care.
Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity. We represent around 100 national public interest organisations working at international, national, regional and local level.
The Food and Mental Health Project has now released its report on the connection between food and mental health. Changing Diets, Changing Minds: how food affects mental health and behaviour pulls together the evidence linking what we eat to how we feel - from foetal brain development to adolescent behaviour through to Alzheimer's disease. Due to both the quantity and quality of the evidence, the report proposes that the changes to the food system seen in the past century may be partly responsible for the rise in mental health and behavioural problems at the same time.
The report is available as a free download (www.sustainweb.org/mhealth_index.asp). If you would like to order a printed copy for £10, please call Courtney at Sustain 020 7837 1228, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Mental Health Foundation, Sustain's partner in the Food and Mental Health Project, has released a complementary report, Feeding Minds: the impact of food on mental health. Please visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk to download a copy.
http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/page.cfm?pageurl=press_2006_01_16.cfmRead the News Release from the Mental Health Foundation here_41214500_veg.jpg
1844DeMar et al 2006 - One generation of n-3 PUFA deprivation increases depression and aggression test scores in ratsOne generation of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid deprivation increases depression and aggression test scores in ratsOne generation of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid deprivation increases depression and aggression test scores in ratsDeMar JC Jr, Ma K, Bell JM, Igarashi M, Greenstein D, Rapoport SI.01/01/2006J Lipid Res. 47(1):172-80. Epub 2005 Oct 6.
Male rat pups at weaning (21 days of age) were subjected to a diet deficient or adequate in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) for 15 weeks. Performance on tests of locomotor activity, depression, and aggression was measured in that order during the ensuing 3 weeks, after which brain lipid composition was determined.
In the n-3 PUFA-deprived rats, compared with n-3 PUFA-adequate rats, docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3) in brain phospholipid was reduced by 36% and docosapentaenoic acid (22:5n-6) was elevated by 90%, whereas brain phospholipid concentrations were unchanged.
N-3 PUFA-deprived rats had a significantly increased (P = 0.03) score on the Porsolt forced-swim test for depression, and increased blocking time (P = 0.03) and blocking number (P = 0.04) scores (uncorrected for multiple comparisons) on the isolation-induced resident-intruder test for aggression. Large effect sizes (d > 0.8) were found on the depression score and on the blocking time score of the aggression test. Scores on the open-field test for locomotor activity did not differ significantly between groups, and had only small to medium effect sizes.
This single-generational n-3 PUFA-deprived rat model, which demonstrated significant changes in brain lipid composition and in test scores for depression and aggression, may be useful for elucidating the contribution of disturbed brain PUFA metabolism to human depression, aggression, and bipolar disorder.
omega-3, PUFA, brain fatty acid composition, DHA, EPA, AA, depression, aggression, animal study, experimental study, free full texthttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16210728View this and related abstracts via PubMed here. Free full text of this article is available online
1117Freeman et al 2006 - Randomized dose-ranging pilot trial of omega-3 for postpartum depression.Randomized dose-ranging pilot trial of omega-3 fatty acids for postpartum depression.Randomized dose-ranging pilot trial of omega-3 fatty acids for postpartum depression.Freeman MP, Hibbeln JR, Wisner KL, Brumbach BH, Watchman M, Gelenberg AJ. 01/01/2006Acta Psychiatr Scand. 113(1) 31-5
OBJECTIVE: Postpartum depression (PPD) affects 10-15% of mothers. Omega-3 fatty acids are an intriguing potential treatment for PPD.
METHOD: The efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids for PPD was assessed in an 8-week dose-ranging trial. Subjects were randomized to 0.5 g/day (n = 6), 1.4 g/day (n = 3), or 2.8 g/day (n = 7).
RESULTS: Across groups, pretreatment Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) mean scores were 18.1 and 19.1 respectively; post-treatment mean scores were 9.3 and 10.0. Percent decreases on the EPDS and HRSD were 51.5% and 48.8%, respectively; changes from baseline were significant within each group and when combining groups. Groups did not significantly differ in pre- or post-test scores, or change in scores. The treatment was well tolerated.
CONCLUSION: This study was limited by small sample size and lack of placebo group. However, these results support further study of omega-3 fatty acids as a treatment for PPD.
omega-3, pregnancy, depression, post-partum depressionhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=16390366&query_hl=10&itool=pubmed_docsumView this abstract via PubMed here
The NHS Choices website carries a wealth of useful information for both the general public and professionals on many different aspects of health and wellbeing.
Useful information can be found here on particular illnesses and their management - and for those living in the UK, this website also provides information on how to access NHS services and/or find appropriate professional help.
NHS Choices also offers a wide range of general information and guidance on how to maintain good health and wellbeing - including some useful advice on nutrition and diet.
http://www.nhs.uk/Pages/HomePage.aspxVisit the NHS Choices website herechoices-logo.jpgNHS Choices logo
1330Maes et al 2005 - In chronic fatigue syndrome, the decreased levels of omega-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids are related to lowered serum zinc and defects in T cell activation.In chronic fatigue syndrome, the decreased levels of omega-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids are related to lowered serum zinc and defects in T cell activation.In chronic fatigue syndrome, the decreased levels of omega-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids are related to lowered serum zinc and defects in T cell activation.Maes M, Mihaylova I, Leunis JC.01/12/2005Neuro Endocrinol Lett.26(6)745-51
There is now evidence that major depression is accompanied by decreased levels of omega3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). There is a strong comorbidity between major depression and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The present study has been carried out in order to examine PUFA levels in CFS. In twenty-two CFS patients and 12 normal controls we measured serum PUFA levels using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. We found that CFS was accompanied by increased levels of omega6 PUFAs, i.e. linoleic acid and arachidonic acid (AA), and mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), i.e. oleic acid. The EPA/AA and total omega3/omega6 ratios were significantly lower in CFS patients than in normal controls. The omega3/omega6 ratio was significantly and negatively correlated to the severity of illness and some items of the FibroFatigue scale, i.e. aches and pain, fatigue and failing memory. The severity of illness was significantly and positively correlated to linoleic and arachidonic acid, oleic acid, omega9 fatty acids and one of the saturated fatty acids, i.e. palmitic acid. In CFS subjects, we found significant positive correlations between the omega3/omega6 ratio and lowered serum zinc levels and the lowered mitogen-stimulated CD69 expression on CD3+, CD3+ CD4+, and CD3+ CD8+ T cells, which indicate defects in early T cell activation. The results of this study show that a decreased availability of omega3 PUFAs plays a role in the pathophysiology of CFS and is related to the immune pathophysiology of CFS. The results suggest that patients with CFS should respond favourably to treatment with--amongst other things--omega3 PUFAs, such as EPA and DHA.
fatty acids, omega-3, zinc, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, CFShttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16380690?ordinalpos=14&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSumView this and related abstracts via PubMed here
1000Fontani et al 2005 - Cognitive and physiological effects of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in healthy subjectsCognitive and physiological effects of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in healthy subjectsCognitive and physiological effects of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in healthy subjectsFontani G, Corradeschi F, Felici A, Alfatti F, Migliorini S, Lodi L. 01/11/2005Eur J Clin Invest. 35(11):691-9
BACKGROUND: It has been reported that Omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in nervous system activity and that they improve cognitive development and reference memory-related learning, increase neuroplasticity of nerve membranes, contribute to synaptogenesis and are involved in synaptic transmission. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of Omega-3 supplementation on some cognitive and physiological parameters in healthy subjects. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Subjects were tested at the beginning of the experiment and after 35 days. In this period they were supplemented with Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. A group was supplemented with olive oil (placebo). Tests involving different types of attention were used, i.e. Alert, Go/No-Go, Choice and Sustained Attention. For each test, the reaction time, the event-related potentials by electroencephalogram (EEG) and the electromyography (EMG) of the forefinger flexor muscle were recorded. The Profile of Mood States test (POMS) was also administered. RESULTS: Blood analyses showed that after Omega-3 supplementation the arachidonic acid/eicosapentaenoic acid ratio (AA/EPA) was strongly reduced. The mood profile was improved after Omega-3 with increased vigour and reduced anger, anxiety and depression states. This was associated with an effect on reactivity with a reduction of reaction time in the Go/No-Go and Sustained Attention tests. The latency of EMG activation was concomitantly reduced in the same tests plus Choice. An EEG frequency shift towards the theta and alpha band were recorded in all the tests after Omega-3. CONCLUSIONS: Omega-3 supplementation is associated with an improvement of attentional and physiological functions, particularly those involving complex cortical processing. These findings are discussed in terms of the influence of Omega-3 on the central nervous system.
omega-3, fatty acids, cogition, behaviourhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=16269019&query_hl=3&itool=pubmed_docsumView this and related abstracts via PubMed here
936Pouwer et al 2005 - Fat food for bad mood - Could we treat and prevent depression in Type 2 diabetes with omega-3 PUFA?Fat food for a bad mood. Could we treat and prevent depression in Type 2 diabetes by means of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids? A review of the evidence.Fat food for a bad mood. Could we treat and prevent depression in Type 2 diabetes by means of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids? A review of the evidence.Pouwer F, Nijpels G, Beekman AT, Dekker JM, Dam RM, Heine RJ, Snoek FJ.01/11/2005Diabet Med.22(11)1465-75.
Aims: Evidence strongly suggests that depression is a common complication of Type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, there is considerable room to improve the effectiveness of pharmacological antidepressant agents, as in only 50-60% of the depressed subjects with diabetes does pharmacotherapy lead to remission of depression. The aim of the present paper was to review whether polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) of the omega-3 family could be used for the prevention and treatment of depression in Type 2 diabetes. Methods: MEDLINE database and published reference lists were used to identify studies that examined the associations between omega-3 PUFA and depression. To examine potential side-effects, such as on glycaemic control, studies regarding the use of omega-3 supplements in Type 2 diabetes were also reviewed. Results: Epidemiological and clinical studies suggest that a high intake of omega-3 PUFA protects against the development of depression. There is also some evidence that a low intake of omega-3 is associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, but the results are less conclusive. Results from randomized controlled trials in non-diabetic subjects with major depression show that eicosapentaenoic acid is an effective adjunct treatment of depression in diabetes, while docosahexanoic acid is not. Moreover, consumption of omega-3 PUFA reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and may therefore indirectly decrease depression in Type 2 diabetes, via the reduction of cardiovascular complications. Conclusions: Supplementation with omega-3 PUFA, in particular eicosapentaenoic acid, may be a safe and helpful tool to reduce the incidence of depression and to treat depression in Type 2 diabetes. Further studies are now justified to test these hypotheses in patients with Type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes, fatty acids, diet, treatment, prevention, omega-3, fatty acids, EFA, PUFA, glucose regulation, reviewhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16241908?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSumView this and related abstracts via PubMed here
922 14 October 2005 - BBC Website - Food a recipe for school successFood a recipe for school success14/10/2005By Mike Baker, BBC News Education correspondent
There is a tendency in politics, and in the media too, to focus on a big announcement and then to move on without following it through.
There is a real danger that this could happen with school dinners.
After the powerful television campaign by the chef Jamie Oliver, the poor nutritional quality of school meals became an election issue in the spring. In the heat of the election campaign, the government announced £220m over three years and set up a School Meals Review Panel to make recommendations for new nutritional standards.
Two weeks ago, at the Labour Party conference, we had the fanfare: the banning of "junk food" from school canteens and vending machines. Cheap burgers and processed bangers will no longer be served and children will not be able to buy fizzy drinks and chocolate bars.
So far, so good - yet no one should think that is the end of the matter. This week a national conference on healthy eating in schools highlighted just how much remains to be done and how precarious are the gains so far.
Two major problems were highlighted: a lack of money to implement change and a need to educate pupils, parents, and school kitchen staff.
Food and behaviour
There was also a positive note. Research evidence suggests that if we really can crack the problem of poor nutrition amongst children, we may simultaneously solve many of the problems of anti-social behaviour, exclusions and poor literacy standards that beset schools.
That might seem a big claim but it came from an authoritative, and scientific, source. Bernard Gesch, a senior research scientist in the Department of Physiology at Oxford University, riveted the conference with his presentation linking food to behaviour.
His evidence is based on research he carried out, not in schools, but in prisons. This involved giving one group of prisoners food supplements containing vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. Another group were given placebos. Neither prisoners nor staff knew who was on the supplements and who was receiving the placebo.
The supplements did no more than ensure that the prisoners taking them would meet the government standard for prison diets (as in schools, while nutritious food was available, the inmates did not always choose it).
The results were quite stark: the anti-social behaviours of those on the food supplements fell by over 35%. The most serious violent acts fell by even more. There was no change for those on the placebo.
Another experiment, conducted by Dr Alex Richardson of Oxford University, involved young children, aged from six to 11, in Durham. All these children had specific difficulties in motor coordination, over 30% had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD), and 40% had specific learning difficulties and were more than two years behind in reading and spelling.
The experiment provided the children with supplements containing Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin E. Again, the results were very clear. Compared with the expected progress for normal children, the recipients of the supplements improved their reading ability at more than three times the normal rate, and more than twice the rate in spelling, over three months of treatment. There were also significant improvements in their ADHD symptoms.
Mr Gesch also referred to research in schools in the US, where a new regime of banning vending machines, providing nutritional education, better food and low dose vitamin-mineral tablets had improved both behaviour and academic standards. In this experiment with five to 10 year olds, after one year, exclusions had fallen by 80%, violent acts were down by 97%, and the school's test scores in maths and English had shot up, taking it from being the lowest in the school district to first and second in maths and English respectively.
So, compared with the hundreds of millions being spent on reducing exclusions and truancy, and raising standards, the government might do better to channel more funds into school children's diets.
By 2020 it is estimated that one in five boys, and one in three girls, will be obese
Which brings us back to the problem of money. The chair of the School Meals Review Panel, Suzi Leather, told the conference that the cost of implementing nutrition standards in schools in England would be £168m a year.
Her estimate would amount to around £500m over three years. So far, the government has given only £220m for that period. The Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, had acknowledged the need for more. Will it be forthcoming, especially as the school meals issue falls out of the headlines? On top of that, Ms Leather says an additional £289m is needed, as a one-off, to refurbish school kitchens and dining rooms.
While the ban on junk food, which has legal backing from 2006, got plenty of media attention, less notice was given to the timetable for introducing nutrition standards. The School Meals Review Panel, recognising the obstacles to be overcome, set this at 2008 for primary schools and 2009 for secondary schools.
While that may have been realistic, it means that many school dinners may continue to lack the nutritional content required for healthy living. This is serious, as we have not yet seen the full impact of poor diet on children's health. As Ms Leather pointed out, the health problems of today's young children will start to show in the teenagers and young adults of the future.
By 2020 it is estimated that one in five boys, and one in three girls, will be obese. That is not just overweight, but clinically obese.
In view of the evidence of the link between nutrition and behaviour and literacy levels, surely it is time for government to fund some bigger studies to see what can be achieved by a programme of vitamin supplements for pupils, particularly during these next few years before the full nutritional standards come into effect.
Or will we need another Jamie Oliver programme to stimulate further action?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4342636.stmRead this article on the BBC website hereSchool meal preparation.jpg
91507 October 2005 - BBC Website - Horizon - Could Fish Make My Child Smart?BBC - Horizon - Could fish make my child smart?Scientists once got sacked for suggesting oily fish was good for you. Now all and sundry are hailing it as a panacea.07/10/2005
Omega-3 is a fatty acid, which is essential to our well being. One of the first people to realise its importance was Oxford University scientist Hugh Sinclair. Back in the 1940s he realised that the Inuit ate vast amounts of fat yet hardly ever suffered from heart disease. He believed this was due to the protective effect of one fat, omega-3, found in oily fish.
However, at the time the idea that a fat could be good for us was so controversial that he was ridiculed and lost his post at the university. Undeterred, he continued to study omega-3 and put himself on an 'Eskimo diet'. For 100 days he ate nothing but seal blubber and fish. He found that he not only lost weight in spite of eating half a kilo of fat per day, but bled for increasingly long times when he cut himself. His blood had become very thin. He thought that this might be how omega-3 worked - by preventing red blood cells from being sticky so that they did not clot and cause heart failure.
After two seminal studies, the Seven Countries Study and the GISSI Study, which focused on heart disease, we now know that omega-3 does have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease. People who have had a heart attack and who take a gram of omega-3 a day are less likely to die suddenly of heart disease. Doctors think that omega-3 may have a protective effect against any cardiovascular disease. New research in this area will be published in autumn 2005.
Thirty years ago scientists realised omega-3 is an essential component of the brain, including the visual system. Boosting levels of omega-3 in the brain may help alleviate depression. Studies from America have correlated rates of depression with the amount of fish eaten - countries that eat less fish have higher rates of depression.
A huge amount of research has now been carried out on omega-3 ranging from its effect on Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, autism, dyslexia, multiple sclerosis and even IQ. However, more research is needed before we can prove what omega-3 can or cannot do. In spite of this, we know that our diet used to be higher in omega-3 than it is now so many think we should try to elevate levels of omega-3 through eating vegetarian sources, such as flaxseeds and walnuts, or by eating more oily fish.
88020-21 September - Reading - We are what we eat - children's nutrition in the 21st centuryBritish Association for Community Child HealthBACCH20/09/200521/09/2005
British Association for Community Child Health - Annual Scientific Meeting
Provisional meeting programme
Tuesday 20 September DAY ONE
09.30 Registration and coffee 10.00 Welcome - Professor Mary Rudolf 10.10 Keynote lecture. The importance of early nutrition. Professor Alan Lucas, MRC Clinical research Professor, Institute of Child Health 10.55 CPHIG keynote lecture. Defusing the obesity time bomb. Dr Susan Jebb, Head of Nutrition and Health Research, Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research centre (HNR) 11.40 Coffee and exhibition 12.10 Free paper session 1.15 Lunch, posters and exhibition 2.15 - 3.15 Workshops/seminars 3.25 - 4.30 Workshops/seminars Two workshops to be selected from the following:
Obesity - Dr Matt Sabin, Research Registrar, Bristol Hospital for Children
Iron deficiency anaemia - Dr Rob Moy, Senior Lecturer in Community Child Health, Birmingham & Anne Aukett, Consultant Community Paediatrician, Birmingham
Eating difficulties in young children - leader to be confirmed
Food allergies - Dr Warren Hyer, Consultant Paediatrician and Paediatric Gastroenterologist Northwick Park and St Mark's Hospital
Eating disorders - Dr Dasha Nichols, Consultant Psychiatrist, Institute of Child Health
Suggestions for a breastfeeding baby who is not growing - Mary Smale, Breastfeeding counsellor for the National Childbirth Trust
Constipation - Dr Ursula Butler, Consultant Community Paediatrician, Sheffield Children's Trust
Development of children's eating skills - Gill Harris, Birmingham's Children's Hospital
4.30 Tea and exhibition 5.0 Keynote lecture. Seizing the Opportunities to Improve the Lives and Health of Children and Young People. Professor Al Aynsley-Green, Nuffield Professor of Child Health, Institute of Child Health 5.45 BACCH Annual General Meeting 8.00 Dinner (Bar opens at 6.15pm)
Wednesday 21 September DAY TWO
8.30 Coffee and registration (2nd day attenders) 9.00 British Academy of Childhood Disability BACD Keynote lecture. Chair - Dr Jane Williams, Consultant Paediatrician, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham. Nutrition, health and development in children with disabilities. Dr Lewis Rosenbloom, Honorary Consultant Paediatric Neurologist, Liverpool 9.45 Parallel sessions: Free paper/ Personal practice 11.00 Coffee and exhibition 11.30 Child protection Special Interest Group Session. Food fads and eating disorders - when is it child protection? Hilary Davies and Libby Read, Family therapists, Dept of Psychological Medicine, Great Ormond Street Hospital 12.15 Workshops
The role of nutrition in children's behaviour, learning and mood. Dr Alex Richardson, Senior Research Fellow, University Lab of Physiology, Oxford; and co-director, Food And Behaviour Research.
Writing community paediatric exam questions for MRCPCH. Workshop leader tbc
Trainees' Workshop. Dr Gabrielle Laing, Consultant Paediatrician, City and Hackney PCT
Gastrostomy and weaning off tube feeding. Dr Peter Sullivan, University Lecturer in Paediatrics, John Radcliffe Hospital
Eating difficulties and the autistic spectrum. Liz Shea, Clinical Psychologist, Birmingham Children's Hospital
Food poverty - a toolkit for implementing local strategy. Professor Nick Spencer, Professor of Community Paediatrics, University of Warwick
Aspiration and eating safely. Sue Strudwick, Speech and Language Therapist, Kingston Hospital
What's really on the label? - improving communication between manufacturers and parents. Kath Dalmenny, Policy Officer, Food Commission
Failure to thrive. Dr Chris Hobbs, Consultant Paediatrician, St James' University Hospital, Leeds
1.15 Lunch, posters and exhibition 2.15 Workshops (as above) 3.30 BACCH 'University Challenge'. Compered by Dr David Vickers, BACCH Convener Teams from each of the Special Interest Groups 4.15 Award of challenge, CATCH and 'Child' prizes
4.30 Tea and Close
Two daysReadingUniversity of Readingbacch@rcpch.ac.uk020 7307 5625
899TFX (The Campaign Against Trans Fats in Food)Ban Trans Fats06/09/2005
Trans fats are stealth killers lurking in our food, causing the early deaths of many thousands of people a year in the UK. They are mainly found in hydrogenated vegetable oil and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, common ingredients in thousands of food products.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, at least 30,000 people, and probably more like 100,000 people a year in the USA die prematurely from coronary heart disease as a result of eating trans fats. If Britons are dying in similar proportions to population, some 5,000 - 20,000 people could be dying prematurely every year in the UK, or 15 - 60 people every day.
The aims of TFX.org.uk are:
to persuade Government to place an upper limit on trans fats both in food, and in oils and fats used in the preparation of food, as has already taken place in Denmark
leading up to a ban, to persuade Government regulators to make labelling of trans fats compulsory, in much the same way as saturated fat and total fat content already are stated on nutrition labels (as will be legally required in the USA from 1 January 2006)
to persuade the food industry to voluntarily reduce levels of trans fats in their products, or eliminate them altogether
to persuade the food industry to voluntarily label trans fats in products, as detailed above.
Have you felt at war with food for most of your life?
Have you felt the need to eat healthier but been unable to do so?
Do you feel that your appetite has control of your life and you are its helpless victim?
Have you suffered from lack of energy, sleep problems, depression or anger?
Have you had repeated chronic health problems - high blood pressure, high cholesterol, allergies, fibromyalgia, yeast infections?
Have you or anyone in your family had a problem with alcohol?
Or are you constantly battling to lose weight?
If you answered yes to any or many of these questions, then you may have a biochemical sensitivity to sugar. Sugar sensitivity, sugar addiction, carbohydrate addiction - these are all words that describe the same condition - a biochemical variation that results in a person having strongly fluctuating blood sugar levels, low serotonin, and low beta-endorphin levels (as defined by Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons in Potatoes Not Prozac). This condition is not uncommon and yet it is so little understood. Those of us who are sugar sensitive, until we learn to understand our condition, feel tremendous suffering from our inability to control our food, our bodies, our health, and our emotions.
http://www.sugaraddict.com/Visit SugarAddict.com herewebgaragebanner.jpgSugarAddict.com logo
1001Fontani et al, 2005 - Blood profiles, body fat and mood state in healthy subjects on different diets supplemented with Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.Blood profiles, body fat and mood state in healthy subjects on different diets supplemented with Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.Blood profiles, body fat and mood state in healthy subjects on different diets supplemented with Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.Fontani G, Corradeschi F, Felici A, Alfatti F, Bugarini R, Fiaschi AI, Cerretani D, Montorfano G, Rizzo AM, Berra B. 01/08/2005Eur J Clin Invest. 35(8):499-507
BACKGROUND: Diets and Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been considered as important factors to reduce the risk of cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, but there are few details on the effects on healthy subjects. The aim of the present study was to examine the variation of several physiological parameters in healthy subjects on different diets supplemented with Omega-3 fatty acids. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The experiment was carried out on 33 subjects divided into four groups according to a double-blind cross-over design with a 1 : 1 ratio for Omega-3 (vs. placebo) and open-label parallel-groups with a 1 : 1 ratio for the Zone diet (vs. the diet suggested by the Italian National Research Institute for Nutrition and Foods). Blood samples were collected at the beginning of the experiment and after 35 (cross-over) and 70 days. The Profile of Mood States test (POMS) was also performed. RESULTS: The arachidonic acid/eicosapentaenoic acid ratio (AA/EPA) was strongly reduced by Omega-3 with a supplementary effect of the diet and in particular the Zone diet. The AA/EPA reduction was correlated with a concomitant decrease of insulin and homocysteine levels. The Zone diet reduced skinfold thickness and body fat percentage and also showed antioxidant effects. The mood state changed after Omega-3 supplementation, with an increased POMS index. This was related to a concomitant reduction of AA/EPA and was particularly evident in the Zone diet. CONCLUSION: AA/EPA and mood state are differently influenced by diet and Omega-3, body fat is particularly reduced by Zone diet, while blood parameters such as triglycerides/HDL ratio, insulin and homocysteine are related to AA/EPA variations. These findings are discussed in terms of differences in the composition of the diets and the influences of Omega-3 on physiological functions.
omega-3, cognition, mood, behaviour, diet, treatmenthttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?itool=abstractplus&db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=abstractplus&list_uids=16101670View this and related abstracts via PubMed here
975Peet 2005 - Omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of psychiatric disordersOmega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of psychiatric disordersOmega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of psychiatric disordersPeet M, Stokes C01/08/2005Drugs65(8)1051-9
The importance of omega-3 fatty acids for physical health is now well recognised and there is increasing evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may also be important to mental health. The two main omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have important biological functions in the CNS. DHA is a major structural component of neuronal membranes, and changing the fatty acid composition of neuronal membranes leads to functional changes in the activity of receptors and other proteins embedded in the membrane phospholipid. EPA has important physiological functions that can affect neuronal activity. Epidemiological studies indicate an association between depression and low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids, and biochemical studies have shown reduced levels of omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cell membranes in both depressive and schizophrenic patients.Five of six double-blind, placebo-controlled trials in schizophrenia, and four of six such trials in depression, have reported therapeutic benefit from omega-3 fatty acids in either the primary or secondary statistical analysis, particularly when EPA is added on to existing psychotropic medication. Individual clinical trials have suggested benefits of EPA treatment in borderline personality disorder and of combined omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The evidence to date supports the adjunctive use of omega-3 fatty acids in the management of treatment unresponsive depression and schizophrenia. As these conditions are associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus, omega-3 fatty acids should also benefit the physical state of these patients. However, as the clinical research evidence is preliminary, large, and definitive randomised controlled trials similar to those required for the licensing of any new pharmacological treatment are needed.
omega-3, psychiatry, treatment, reviewhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?itool=abstractplus&db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=abstractplus&list_uids=15907142View this abstract via PubMed here
85714 June 2005 - BBC Website - Right diet 'could help stop PMS'Right diet 'could help stop PMS'14/06/2005
A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D might banish pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), US researchers believe.
Many women experience mild emotional or physical symptoms before their period, but 20% have more severe symptoms. Massachusetts University researchers compared the diets of 1,000 women with PMS and 2,000 women without PMS.
Those without PMS tended to eat more vitamin D and calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese, broccoli and cereals, the Archives of Internal Medicine reported.
Others have already reported that calcium supplements appear to ease PMS, but the new research suggests both calcium and vitamin D might reduce PMS risk in the first place.
Although the authors did not look at what might be behind the link, past studies suggest calcium and vitamin D may influence levels of the female hormone oestrogen. Researchers have also shown that blood calcium and vitamin D levels are lower in women with PMS.
There are several theories about why PMS occurs, but some believe it is triggered by fluctuations of the sex hormones during the menstrual cycle - a drop in progesterone or the increase in oestrogen during the latter half of the menstrual cycle.
In the current study, after adjusting for factors like the woman's age, how many children she had and whether she smoked, the researchers found the women with the highest intake of vitamin D and calcium were significantly less likely to have PMS.
Scientist Elizabeth Bertine-Johnson said: "We observed a significantly lower risk of developing PMS in women with high intakes of vitamin D and calcium from food sources, equivalent to about four servings per day of skim or low-fat milk, fortified orange juice or low-fat diary foods such as yoghurt."
The amounts consumed were slightly above the current recommended daily amounts in the UK, which are 800 milligrams of calcium and 5 micrograms of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is known to help the body absorb calcium and both are essential for healthy bones. Professor Shaughn O'Brien, an expert on PMS from Keele University, said the findings provided a basis for clinical trial to see whether this was a real effect.
He said following a healthy, balanced diet was sensible for anyone and that there are drug treatments have been shown to be helpful for women with severe PMS. These include antidepressants, which appear to ease the physical as well as the psychological symptoms, he said.
The study authors agreed that clinical trials were warranted. "In the interim, given that calcium and vitamin D may also reduce the risk of osteoporosis and some cancers, clinicians may consider recommending these nutrients even for young women," they said.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4087312.stmView this story on the BBC website here7711336.jpgA healthy diet
The aim of this conference is to address three key themes relevant to further education, at a national, regional and local level. With the election settled, the 14-19 Agenda may quickly become clearer, the Action for Business Colleges Agenda will be progressing for both FE and 6th Form Colleges, and the increasingly important dialogue between government and education about student diet will be high on the agenda.
The seminar presenters are all leading experts in their field and close to the policy makers. The conference should provide a highly stimulating day, provoking both ideas and action, for delegates to take back to their institutions.
The programme involves 3 seminars, which all participants will attend on a rotating basis. The topics of these seminars will be:
(1) The implications and planning needs following the 14-19 White Paper, February 2005
(2) Employer engagement and student employment preparation
(3) Challenging Students - How Food and Diet can affect Behaviour, Learning and Mood
Dr Alex Richardson of FAB Research will lead Seminar 3, for which the outline content is given below.
Nutrition has rarely been considered relevant to educational policy and practice, but increasing evidence shows that the kind of foods we eat - and even the way we eat them - can affect our behaviour, learning and mood as well as our physical health.
In this seminar, Alex Richardson will explain the latest scientific research in this area, its practical implications for students and education professionals, and some simple dietary guidelines for maximising mental as well as physical performance.
Topics covered will include:
A new approach to ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and related conditions
Omega 3 fatty acids and the brain - getting the fats right
Other essential nutrients (and where to get them from)
Food allergies, intolerances and addictions
Dietary strategies for optimal mental performance
Practical approaches - your questions answered
9.15 - 4.00Brighton - University of SussexBramber House Conference CentreGillian Chapman / Tracey Hannongc1@ccb.ac.uk / email@example.com 667715 / 01273 667788 ext 553AccordProg Conference2005.docDownload the conference programme here
836The Vitamin D CouncilVitamin D Council - Cholecalciferol council - Vit-D01/06/2005
The Vitamin D Council (Cholecalciferol Council) is a group of concerned citizens that believe many humans are needlessly suffering and dying from Vitamin D deficiency.
Their goal is to educate the public and professionals about vitamin D deficiency and the numerous diseases associated with that deficiency.
According to the home page of their website, "The high rate of natural production of vitamin D in the skin is the single most important fact every person should know about vitamin D because it has such profound implications for the natural human condition."
"Vitamin D (cholecalciferol) is crucial to health.
But is vitamin D really a vitamin?
Is it in the foods humans normally consume?
By exploring this web site you can discover the amazing answers to these questions."
http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/Visit the website of the Vitamin D Council herevit D logo.jpg20 minutes of full sun on the skin allows us to make 20,000 units of Vitamin D
81210 May 2005 - Diet and child behaviour: the scientific evidenceAlex Richardson - public lecture in Bristol on food and behaviourFAB Research10/05/200510/05/2005
There is increasing interest in the links between what children eat and the way they behave - much of which stems from recent TV coverage, focusing on schools, individuals or families with a tale to tell.
Such personal, anecdotal evidence may be compelling viewing - and it has certainly sparked debate - but what's usually missing is the firm scientific evidence. Of course, the relative lack of such evidence is one very important reason why so little attention has been paid to the effects that bad diets may be having on our children's brains and behaviour.
But that hard scientific evidence is now mounting - and few people are better placed to review it than Dr Alex Richardson. A leading researcher in the field, and co-director of the charity Food And Behaviour Research, she is also an excellent communicator who can explain both the science and its practical implications to any interested audience.
At this evening event:
Alex Richardson will give a talk on 'Diet and Child Behaviour: The Scientific Evidence'. This will cover a range of topics, but will include details of results from the recently published 'Oxford-Durham Trial' - the largest controlled trial of fatty acid supplementation in children with specific learning difficulties.
Babi Chana, scientist and health journalist will give a short introductory talk on 'Omega-3 fatty acids' and will join Alex in answering questions in an informal session afterwards.
ATTENDANCE FEE (All proceeds to FAB Research) Associate members of FAB Research - free Other individuals - £10 (payable on the door)
We regret that no advance booking is possible. Please arrive in good time to avoid disappointment, as places cannot be guaranteed in advance.
7.30 - 9.30BristolUniversity of Bristol, Department of Physics, Powell Lecture Theatre, Tyndall Avenue, BS8 1TL.The Regent Practice0117 973 5500.
81305 May 2005 - The Guardian - Why it's time we faced fatsThe Durham study, omega-3, dyspraxia, dyslexia, ADHD, magnocellular, visual function, childrenNew research establishes a link between nutrition and the management of many behaviour and learning disorders. Felicity Lawrence investigates 05/05/2005
It takes about four months to get an appointment at the dyslexia clinic at Oxford University's department of physiology. Joshua's turn has finally come - he is eight-years-old, clever, well-behaved and doing well, but an energetic special needs teacher at his primary school has picked up that, in some areas, he is underperforming for his ability and suspects he may have dyslexia.
In a tiny room, barely more than a cupboard, Sue Fowler - who has a doctorate in visual physiology - is using simple equipment to check his vision. The clinic is free, funding is short, and it's all a bit make-do. She positions the prongs of a long, fork-like stick on Joshua's face so that he has to look down the stick's length at a small box with a black dot on it. As she pushes the box up the stick towards his face, he has to tell her when the one dot becomes two. It does so almost immediately.
Joshua has already passed his NHS eye test but one vital point was missed by the optician - "It often is these days..." sighs Sue. "He's got a problem with convergence. His eyes are working separately and seeing double, which means that when he tries to read, the letters are blurred and jumping around."
She gives him a pair of blue glasses from Taiwan worth 50p that make things better immediately. "Blue quietens down the magnocellular pathway in the brain," she says.
The magnocellular pathway is the one by which the brain perceives motion or where things are, as opposed to the parvocellular pathway that sees fine detail and colour, or what things are. We still know little about how the two pathways interact or about how colour works, and the treatment in Joshua's case is as simple as the neuroscience behind it is complicated. This is the cutting edge of brain research.
The Oxford scientists estimate that about two thirds of the children they see have difficulty with controlling eye movements and with visual attention, which arises from problems with the magnocellular pathway of the brain. About a third benefit from another low-tech intervention - supplements of fish oils, high in the Omega-3 series of essential fatty acids vital to the brain's structure and to the functioning of the magnocellular pathway but deficient in most modern diets.
The lab buildings here in Oxford are where John Stein, professor of physiology and brother of chef Rick, has gathered a team of researchers whose studies into the brain are beginning to challenge the very notion of free will.
In a series of trials, they have found that dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can all be dramatically improved by simple nutritional supplements. Their work exploring the biological basis of personality and behaviour suggests we may need to rewrite the books on crime and punishment. Revealing as it does that mood, behaviour and achievement are affected by whether the brain has enough of the right kind of nutrients to function properly, it throws into doubt how far anyone, from the disruptive child to the convicted criminal, can actually control their behaviour.
The department's latest work was published earlier this week by Stein's colleague Alexandra Richardson. She studied more than 100 children of normal ability in mainstream schools in County Durham, who were underachieving and suspected of being dyspraxic - that is of having problems with coordination or motor skills. In some cases, the children were also disruptive.
Once they had been assessed, they were divided into two groups for a randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Half of them were given fish oils high in Omega-3 essential fats for three months. The other half were given placebos. Some 40% of the children given supplements made dramatic improvements in reading and spelling, averaging progress of more than nine months in just three months. The control group made just the normal progress of three months.
Although none had been diagnosed as suffering from ADHD, a third were found to have sufficient problems to put them in this category. But when given fish oils, half of them made so much progress they no longer counted as having attention disorders - a change on a par with improvements made when children are prescribed stimulant drugs such as Ritalin.
The raw data disguises the excitement and relief experienced by many of the parents whose children were being treated. After three months, the control group switched from placebos to active supplements, and showed similar leaps in progress.
The physiological mechanisms by which deficiencies of essential fats in the diet might affect the working of the brain are becoming clearer. Apart from water, the brain is largely made up of essential fats. The Omega-3 essential fatty acid DHA is concentrated in the synaptic junctions and signalling system of the brain and retina, for example. Another Omega-3 fatty acid, EPA, is also vital for cell signalling.
These essential fatty acids are so called because they cannot be synthesised in the body, but have to be eaten in the diet. Fish is the best source. Nuts, seeds and leafy vegetables also provide them. Modern industrial processing strips many of the vital Omega-3 fatty acids from our food because they are unstable and liable to go off. Hydrogenating fats also wipes out Omega-3s.
In the past, the ratio between Omega-3s and Omega-6s in the diet would have been in balance, now we consume between 10 and 20 times as much Omega-6 as Omega-3 fat.
As these changes in our diet have taken place, a range of disorders have become alarmingly common: current evidence suggests that up to 20% of the population may be affected by dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD or autistic spectrum disorders. These conditions are in fact, as Richardson points out, little more than descriptive labels for a range of traits and features that overlap with more severe disorders such as full autism, schizophrenia and manic depression. Other studies into these three conditions show that taking essential fatty acids supplements is an effective treatment for them, too.
But our approach to many of these disorders is still hung up on pharmacological or psychological treatments. "Food affects behaviour, but at the moment, nutrition is neglected or ignored, even in children whose needs are obviously not being met in the education system. But if you paid attention to diet, you could really make a difference," Richardson says.
The implications of a study conducted by another researcher in Stein's department are even more startling. In another randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, Bernard Gesch gave a course of supplements containing essential fatty acids and key vitamins and minerals to prisoners in one of Britain's maximum security prisons. The inmates were responsible for some of the highest levels of prison violence in the UK. The number of serious offences, including violence, by the prisoners, fell by nearly 40% in those taking the supplements but not at all in those not taking them. To Gesch, the case is just "bleeding obvious". "The brain is a metabolic powerhouse, which despite being only 2% of our body mass, consumes around 20% of available energy. To metabolise this energy requires a range of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. These are essential for the normal functioning of the brain, which means there are likely to be consequences if we don't get enough of them from our diet."
The Dutch government has been so impressed by the results of the prison study that it is starting its own programme. The American and French prison services have expressed interest too, but so far the British Home Office is not convinced. It says it wants to see the study replicated on a larger scale but there is no funding to do the work.
Stein finds it very frustrating. "Our mindset is so sociological, we don't look for the physiological explanations. An awful lot of money goes into cognitive approaches to criminology, though they've never been shown to work." He speculates that it's no coincidence that most crime and antisocial behaviour is committed by young pubescent males when their rapidly growing bodies have to compete with their brains for nutrients inadequately provided by junk food diets.
"Around puberty is a really crucial time - it's the second big burst of brain development (after foetal development)."
But the ideas are being taken up with enthusiasm elsewhere. Jamie Oliver visited Stein while preparing his series on school dinners. It was the hard-slog science of the physiology department that gave credibility to the link between children's diet and their behaviour that Oliver made so powerfully in his TV programmes.
Ordinary people are desperate to know more about the way our food affects our mental state. But unless new money is found soon, the Oxford department's researchers will be unable to continue.
Meanwhile, Stein's best advice to the rest of us might be to cut out the junk food and try his brother's fish recipes at least twice, ideally three times, a week instead.
www.fabresearch.org Details of Dr Richardson's and others' research on food and behaviour
www.dyslexic.org.uk Dyslexia Research Trust charitable website
Chemicals that keep the brain sharp
The brain, the nervous and vascular systems, and to a lesser extent, all cells in the body use a special kind of fat in their construction, known as essential fat. The brain alone is comprised of three quarters of this fat, which has a different chemical composition to the visible fat the body uses as a way of storing energy. At a molecular level, fat is comprised of a string of carbons, saturated with hydrogen and with an acid group at one end. The carbon atoms are normally joined by single bonds. With some fats, some of the hydrogens can be moved to form double bonds between adjacent carbons. Essential fatty acids have more than one double bond and are called polyunsaturated.
There are two different types of essential fatty acids:
· Linoleic acid and its derivatives, including arachidonic acid (AA), are known as the Omega-6 series of fatty acids;
· Alpha-linolenic acid and its derivatives are the Omega-3 series of essential fatty acids, which include EPA and DHA.
These essential fatty acids cannot be made in the body and must be eaten in the diet. Animals and fish eat the plants containing the shorter chain fatty acids, and their digestive systems change the fat, extending the length of the carbon chain. When people eat meat or fish they build on these building blocks again. It is the long chain fatty acid derivatives that are used in human brain construction, in particular in the construction of cell membranes. These different chemical structures give the fats different properties: saturated fats are hard and inflexible, while polyunsaturated fats are liquid. Essential fats are unstable, so they are stripped from foods by industrial processing where shelf life and stability are considered more important.
In 1972 Michael Crawford showed that both AA and DHA were used in forming the structure of the brain. DHA is concentrated in the synaptic junctions and signalling systems of the brain and retina. EPA and its derivatives are vital for cell signalling.
All chemical and electrical signals have to pass through the outside walls or membranes of the brain cells that are made mostly of fats. When the cells react to a stimulus, little holes in the membrane open and close to produce electric impulses. With the right kind of fat, that is a lot of DHA, they are more elastic and signals can be passed rapidly and efficiently. The cells also release signalling molecules derived from EPA, so for the brain to work well, you need to have more EPA to replace them.
John Stein's theory is that a whole range of neurophysiological conditions and disorders from dyslexia and dyspraxia to depression and schizophrenia relate to problems with the magnocellular part of the brain's visual system and how signals are passed within it.
People no longer consume enough essential fatty acids for the brain to function properly, and some people inherit a vulnerability to Omega-3 deficiency.
For further details of the recently published study showing that dietary supplementation can improve children's behaviour and learning, see Richardson and Montgomery 2005
To find out more about the Oxford Dyslexia Clinic or to help to support its research into visual problems in dyslexia and related conditions, visit the Dyslexia Research Trust website.
For an overview of the Mansfield Dyslexia Project investigating visual function in dyslexia and related conditions in relation to omega-3 fatty acids, see Extraordinary Minds
To find out more about Bernard Gesch's work showing that dietary intervention can reduce antisocial behaviour, or to help support his work, see Gesch et al, 2002 and the website of the charity, Natural Justice
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