We all know that a good long-term diet and nutrition choices have an effect on the way we feel and look. Recent studies also concluded that nutrition can also affect how the brain works. This is not strange because for thousand of years, scientists have linked nutrition with the evolution of the human brain and its effects to the human body. Scientists are also studying the effects of exercise, sleep and food for the brain. They stated that these attributes have the potential to alter the mental function of the brain health of an individual. They also stated that changes in diet are an accepted strategy in enhancing the cognitive abilities of an individual, counteracting the effects of aging and protecting the brain from any damage.
Research also shows that dietary deficiencies can increase the chances of people developing mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorders dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, ADHD, anxiety and schizophrenia than genetic predispositions. This is also same with persons suffering from memory loss because they tend to struggle learning new tasks. Experts and scientists point dietary deficiency specifically the lack of the essential fat omega-3 fatty acids are linked to these mental disorders.
Omega-3 And The Brain
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in omega-3 fatty acid is essential to brain development and brain function. This is why seafood particularly fatty fish and squid are known as brain food. These marine sources are very rich in DHA which is found in high concentration (40%) in the gray matter of the brain. DHA is responsible in the proper function of brain cell membranes which are very important in transmitting brain signals to the body. Omega-3 deficiency can cause a communication breakdown in the brain that can hamper brain development in developing fetus, growing children and memory loss among adults. Omega -3 are also needed in maintaining brain health and continuous function. Just imagine that the brain is the engine that makes a car run, an engine needs the proper oil and lubricants for it to function as designed. If no lubricants are present, the engine will cease and will break down for sure. Unfortunately, the human body is not designed to manufacture omega-3s so this essential fat taken from our diet or supplements.
Omega-3, Anxiety and hyperactivity
Researchers have stated that dietary changes during the 60’s and 70’s may be linked to a spike in anxiety, hyperactivity and learning difficulties in today’s teenagers. Deficiencies in omega-3s that dates to that time are affecting teens in most first world and industrialized countries as stated by the reports of scientists that was published in the journal “Biological Psychiatry”. The scientist stated they have assumed that stress is one of the cause of the said mental conditions but they have stated that nutrition is a big factor and can trigger mental disorders like depression, ADHD, anxiety and schizophrenia. The researchers stated that omega-3 deficiencies started with the rise of processed food, using oils lacking in omega-3s and the change from feeding farm animals grains instead of grass and hay. The rise of Autism and ADHD were linked to this period and the shift of the diet. Diets lacking in omega-3s have worsened the effects over consecutive generations starting from that dietary shift.
To support this claim, a research team examined a second generation of omega-3 deficient diets that mimics today’s adolescents. Parents of many of today’s teens were born during the 60’ and the 70’s, a time as stated earlier when omega-3 deficient foods were introduced and became prevalent. Corn and soy oil became the norm, farm animals moved from grass to grains. Since grass and algae contain omega-3s, today’s grain fed cattle lacks the essential nutrient and fatty acids. The researchers stated that an omega-3 deficiency influences the behavior of the test adults and adolescents.
It is very remarkable that relatively common dietary changes can have adverse effects on generations. It shows that diet does not simply affect us in the short term but can also affect our offspring and their offspring after them. It’s not too late to change. You can enhance your weekly diet by serving foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
About the Author: Roselen is a a medical volunteer and had worked in Nairobi for a few months. She is an active health blogger and promotes healthy living.