"The largely new dietary pattern adopted since the invention of agriculture, and especially within the past one hundred years, appears to go beyond what our genes can tolerate."
S. Boyd Eaton, M.D. Emory University
Omega-6 vs. Omega-3 Fats-What Americans Need to Know Back to Eden - Correcting Omega Fat Imbalance
How Can We Best Protect our Brain?
Scientists say our brain is starving for the right nutrients and balanced foods to help it function better in terms of memory and general intellectual performance. Our brain craves nutrients based on its Evolutionary Memory. Throughout the greater part of human history up until only recently, our brain has relied on the type of foods our ancestors ate that includes fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and natural sweeteners such as honey. Lean meats such as seafood and wild game were very popular with our ancient ancestors as well. So, it is easy to understand why the modern human brain has been biologically jolted adjusting to this modern diet that leaves out many of the foods our ancestors ate for hundreds of thousands of generations.
This is an important piece of information everyone should be aware of -- our modern brain is under attack like never before from its greatest enemies, thugs called Free Radicals. Originally, free radicals were placed by nature to help destroy invading bacteria and viruses, but they got way out of hand. Free radicals enter into the body when you breathe, and burn calories, so they cannot be completely avoided. They also get in your body through cigarette smoke, air pollution and toxic chemicals in the air and water. Most important to know, they are also carried into the body through fatty foods.
What these free radicals do to the body is destructive and malicious -- they are dark forces that attack DNA, creating permanent cellular damage that accumulates over time, leading to accelerated aging, memory loss and virtually every chronic disease there is. Experts say that our brain is the most vulnerable target of free radicals. Free radical activity is a central event in the brains of people who suffer from degenerative brain diseases such as ALS, Parkinson's and notably Alzheimer's.
The American diet has become under tremendous scrutiny lately. What has been discovered about the American diet that is most alarming is the imbalance of certain types of processed oils that is so severe, that it is being considered responsible for free radical damage to the brain as severe as nerve end destruction. Among polyunsaturated fatty acids, there are two basic types of fat, one called Omega-6 fat and the other Omega-3 fat that have distinctly different chemical make-ups. Our ancestors' evolutionary diets had a perfect balance between these two types of oils for 4 million years up until only recently when the Industrial Revolution brought drastic changes that ushered in the processed Omega-6 vegetable oils along with other high fat foods. The result was an utter attack on the brain that had skyrocketed the Omega-6 oils to new highs, while completely ignoring the importance of providing the Omega-3 oils. It is the ratio of these oils you eat that is the most important to your brain's health. Today, Americans, feasting on processed oil eat 15 to 20 times more Omega-6 fats than Omega-3 fats. This ratio is completely out of sync with our genetic origins and Americans in particular, are paying a high price.
Surprisingly, the most destructive source of Omega-6 fats are found in salad dressings. These are the Omega-6 oils to avoid: corn oil, regular safflower oil, and regular sunflower seed oil. Avoid foods, such as margarines, and salad dressing made with these oils. Replace these oils with olive oil or canola oil which include Omega-3 oils in their composition. Olive oil is especially recognized as a memory booster.
Our brain's long evolutionary growth and development occurred primarily due to its consumption of high Omega-3 fat foods, primarily found in fish. Michael Crawford, Ph.D., eminent British authority on brain nutrition, says that for millions of years the hominid brain was stuck at a small size of 400-500 grams, a mere pound. The main reason he says is that early man was landlocked in areas of Eurasia that lacked the Omega-3 fat from seafood needed to spur brain growth. Then over the last million or so years, brain capacity, especially in the cerebral cortex exploded rapidly in our prehistoric ancestors living in East Africa near large fresh water lakes. It's no accident, says Dr. Crawford, that our greatest ancient civilizations arose in areas where humans had access to food from water -- the Nile, Tiber, Euphrates, Ganges, etc. Dr. Crawford's contention is that eating seafood with Omega-3 type fat was the nutritional stimulus needed to produce huge jumps in brain size and brain power, that tripled brain weight to the current 3 pounds.
Most important to brain function is Omega-3 made of two specific fatty acids: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). DHA is the most powerful element in brain chemistry that must be continually supplied to the brain through Omega-3 rich seafood, or the brain falters and malfunctions. Here is a list of the top ten DHA fish your brain would love you for. One more bonus for your brain is that it can also convert a short-chain fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid LNA into DHA in adults. You get LNA in green leafy vegetables, flax seed and flax seed oil, canola oil, walnuts, Brazil nuts, seaweed, and algae.
Other than doing an Omega fat balancing act, there is something else you can do to protect your brain from free radicals. You can bring in the best equipped force to deal with the thugs who want to rob you of your precious brain functions, the Antioxidants. Antioxidants are the best defense we have available to successfully combat the free radicals. Amazingly, though we might have neglected our brain's nutrition for years allowing these free radicals to grow rampant, much of the damage can be repaired in a very short period of time by simply providing our brain with repeated healthy doses of Antioxidants.
Because there are hoards of bandit free radicals created every microsecond in the body, Antioxidants form a network to battle them. This network actually works together in tandem to disarm the radicals, and ensure every Antioxidant is quickly rehabilitated to continue the battle. The superstar Antioxidants that makeup this network are vitamin E, vitamin C, glutathione, coenzyme Q10 and lipoic acid. Of these super five, only lipoic acid can resuscitate all the other network antioxidants, plus itself. It is the super key Antioxidant.
Nature has provided us with an Antioxidants in its food supply, namely in fruits and vegetables. Here is a ranked list of those fruits and vegetables best suited to combat free radical activities based on an ORAC score. The ORAC (oxygen radical absorbency capacity) scores signifies how well nature endowed that food with overall powers to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals. There are other foods that rank high in Antioxidant content as well, such as black tea, green tea, chocolate, and even red wine. Among juices, Welch's red grape juice, was the highest rated Antioxidant juice at Tufts labs. One researcher was also shocked at the impact fresh blueberries had on brain function improvement as well.