Sunday, December 13, 2015

What the Heck is Brain Food, Anyway?

Eat for your brain - a proven idea that never caught on.  Controversial, too!

By Marilyn Sidwell, Nutrition Pure and Simple
with oversight by John W Jones, MD, MPH
Reviewed July 2016

I have always stood in awe of creative genius.  Just how does a sculptor ‘release’ a statue from a stone?  How did the architect ‘imagine’ that awesome cathedral?  Can a great composer really ‘hear’ the melody - as well as the contribution of each musical instrument?  There is no doubt in my mind: their brains work differently from mine.

A little biochemical history   

When you think about it, human beings are really unique.  Since we have so much in common with the other animals that inhabit our planet, just what is it that sets us apart from them?  I have heard us described as being ‘self aware’.  Human Beings universally hold a belief in a ‘being’ outside ourselves, such as God, who provides counsel in how we can live our lives in such a way that we can advance to a higher plane or level of being.   Where does this concept come from?

Many researchers point to specific biochemical activities in our brains that differentiate us from other animals. The human brain not only is comprised of a large percentage of fat, but uniquely the fat is almost exclusively the preformed LCPUFAs, and those are predominantly AA, DTA and DHA; but not the parent oils LA and ALA from plants.  The brains of herbivores, or plant-eating animals, are rich in LA and ALA, but not the LCPUFAs.  We can convert LA and ALA into the longer FA chains, but this conversion is slow and unreliable.  So LA and ALA cannot account for our unique brain capabilities.

Researchers have noted that without exception all land locked species lost the ability to accumulate DHA in the brain.   As a result they never attained our kind of brain capacity and function.  Today their brains are very different from ours.  So, way, way back in time something happened that affected the brain of pre-hominids.  What could have happened?

Around 5 million years ago a mutation occurred that allowed fat to be taken up more efficiently by pre-man’s brain, subcutaneous and breast tissue.  Further, it is probable that when the last marine mammals vacated the land/water cusp, a species of ‘clever ape’ took up residence.  Their brains were nourished in this super nutrient-rich animal food chain; they did not eat plants exclusively.  These ‘riverine’ areas provided food such as fish, molluscs, insects, reptile eggs, larvae and crustaceans that are particularly rich in the preformed LCPUFAs necessary for optimal brain functioning.  In addition, when hunted animals were eaten they donated the lifetime benefits of that animal’s biochemistry.  Nutritional intake for these hominids was rich in many ways:  preformed LCPUFAs, iodine, protein, vitamins and all the nutrients so often low or missing from the typical American diet.

What about the animals with whom we feel the closest kinship?  I believe you might be able teach a monkey to drive a car.  Who has not seen one drive a kid’s toy car?.  What you cannot do is teach the monkey how to drive safely - in freeway traffic, for instance.  Apes have been seen to pick up a stick and strike with it.  Have you ever seen one sharpen a stick and use it to stab?  Can you imagine the brain power it would take for one to invent an ax?  Early man had the brain power to creat a number of ‘tools’.

So the continuing question is - what makes us different?  

According to David Horrobin, further mutations occurred related to an enzyme that directly affects brain function.  It is called phospholipase A2.  Today people who have trouble with this enzyme are diagnosed as having schizophrenia or one of the other related behavioral neurological conditions.

It seems that this particular genetic mutation has proved apt to fuel human language, religion, creativity, symbolism and art, charismatic religious leaders, pastoralism and agriculture.  Ultimately this change led to the industrial Revolution with its unique diet. 

A no-so-good effect: the over-activity of the phospholipase A2 enzyme has been associated with psychoses, single-mindedness, cruelty, ethnic differentiations and hatred, as well as our constant need for novelty and our curiosity.  To quote Dr Horrobin “In fact our whole fractured humanity.”  The gene for Schizophrenia affects a small percentage of the population.  What makes it unique is that it has that same distribution world wide and race wide.  It is also possible that over the centuries the genetic distribution has spread and been diluted so that many people have at least a little effect from it. 

Neurologic problems are on the rise in recent years.  

It is probable that in the early years of the mutation frank psychosis was avoided by the water-based ‘riverine’ diet which was a rich source of preformed essential fatty acids that nourished the brain.  Dr Horrobin published a book called ‘The Madness of Adam and Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity.”   In support of this theory, written history shows us that some of the greatest leaders, musicians and thinkers were part of a family which had a known schizophrenic member.

Unfortunately, the agricultural revolution began the move away from a diet containing food from the ocean and riverines: where fish, crustaceans, and kelp were central.  Modern diets are full of fats that are wrong for our brains - a particular problem for those with the gene.  Without the proper preformed LCPUFAs the phospholipase A2 enzyme becomes overactive and begins to displace all the preformed and essential LCPUFAs (AA, DHA, EPA and DGLA) from the Sn2 position of membrane phospholipids. 

Many good studies have proven that this loss can be controlled by providing the preformed LCPUFAs which quench the over activity of this enzyme.   I know: that is too simple to be true.   And truth be told, it is a remedy ignored by most doctors.   How can it be possible to change a very dysfunctional person with the overactive enzyme into a responsible husband or wife, teen or non-criminal?  It just works!  Read Dr Jones' Nutritional Recommendations.

What is most amazing is that the resulting creativity (and often brilliance) can be exhibited - minus the terrible personality complications.  Schizophrenics, those with dyslexia and autism often display mental talents denied to so-called ‘normal’ individuals.  What a benefit to humanity if they can begin to express the full nature of the function of their brains.

In the 1970's the ‘Fat is Bad for You” myth began to spread.  Coincidentally so did the rise in obesity with an increase in Diabetes.  Heart disease and Cancer are among the list of problems arising out of the typical American diet.  Besides feeding our brains the wrong foods with the wrong fats we are also wreaking havoc with the rest of our bodies. 

When you look at what foods are recommended for modern ‘healthy diets’, they are high in carbohydrates (plants) and low in foods that provide LCPUFAs and quality proteins and iodine.  No wonder the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has a list of hundreds (maybe thousands, I did not count them) of neurological disorders. 

Elsewhere we have written about problems with the typical American diet.  Besides choosing foods that are high in carbohydrates and which provide the wrong fats, we eat too many processed foods, get WAY too much sugar and eat foods that are high in Arachidonic acid - a major source of inflammatory diseases like arthritis and cancer.

What we do know is that the way you think, and the way your brain works is dependent on the presence of LCPUFAs.  We also know that AA, an essential EFA,  must be in balance with the other LCPUFAs.  It is known that various LCPUFAs affect intelligence, behavior and mood.  For instance, clinically depressed people have a much lower level of DHA.  It should be noted that DHA raises serotonin and alleviates stress.

In order to promote a healthy brain and body we highly recommend

1.    Ultra Omega-Linic, which supplies the PRE FORMED Essential Fatty Acids GLA, EPA and DHA so important to the brain.  The usual fish oil products provide the EPA and DHA, but not the GLA, which is likely to be in short supply because the typical American diet prevents it from being converted from its parent oil LA.
2.    Ultra Vites, which supplies the necessary vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are necessary to fuel this marvelous biochemical factory that we call our body and brain - including iodine, necessary for thyroid support.  Brain function seems particularly in need of the B vitamins, especially B12 and folic acid, both of which are very low in plant food.
3.    And the Low Carbohydrate lifestyle with its emphasis on low carbohydrate fresh fruits and vegetables, quality protein, and lots of fish, especially deep water, cold water, oily fish.  In recent years we also put more emphasis on organic foods (avoid GMO)

Notes re: the low carbohydrate lifestyle modification

•    There is NO limit on the amount of protein and fat.  Carbohydrate is the enemy of body and brain health.
•    The KIND of protein matters!  If ONE essential amino acid is missing, all protein synthesis is compromised.  The same is true if you cannot synthesize a conditionally essential one fast enough to meet your current biochemical needs.
•    The KIND of carbohydrate matters!  While the low glycemic index carbohydrate foods are preferred, the total amount of carbohydrate daily matters more.  The optimal level of carbohydrate intake is 40-65 grams.  A lower level is necessary if weight-loss is a goal.
•    But most of all, the KIND of Fats and Fatty Acids matter!  In order to keep your brain operating at peak performance you MUST have the preformed GLA, EPA and DHA. AA is an essential Fatty Acid that in the typical Amer diet is in over- abundance and your food choices must necessarilry counteract its effects.

This paper is based on writings by David Horrobin, MD, He has a doctorate in neurophysiology and neuroendocrinology and has written extensively about EFAs.  For this article I drew on his article “A Speculative Overview: The Relationship between phospholipid spectrum disorders and human evolution” that appears in Phospholipid spectrum disorders in psychiatry and neurology, 2nd edition, Marius Press 2003.

The other author is Michael A. Crawford.  In particular I draw upon Dr Crawford’s  After-Dinner talk for the Am Heart Assn conference on W-3 FA in Nutrition, Vascular Biology and Medicine Houston, TX 1994. 

Additionally, John W Jones, MD, MPH has been studying the role of EFAs in Health since the mid 1980s, and I draw heavily upon his knowledge.

Visit the website of John W Jones, MD, MPH for Articles, Nutritional Recommendations for various health conditions, white papers for our Nutritionals and some recipes - a valuable resource

Additional Reading
Carbs as Brain Fuel Myth

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.