Quest Vitamins LTD,
Nutrition and Behaviour
The answer to this question is, think. Our thoughts define all our actions and in this respect it is vital that we can think straight. If we can think clearly and logically and apply common sense to situations we find ourselves in, then surely everything bad that happens in the world wouldn’t happen.
Take, for example, the horror stories we hear about people going for a night out in town and accidentally bumping into someone. That person then starts a fight which often results in hospital treatment for the totally innocent initiator of this event. Unfortunately this is quite a common occurrence, but are these people thinking straight.
So what exactly is it that makes different people react in different ways in a certain situation. Is the person who puts someone in hospital for practically nothing just an idiot, or could it be something a little more clinical. What goes wrong between their thought and their action that they can justify endangering someone’s life for something so innocuous. Most people would say that this kind of person was just an idiot. However, when considering one of the symptoms of someone with autism is an inability to consider the thoughts and feelings of others, could we classify these people in the same group. It has always been a philosophy of mine that I don’t do anything to someone that I wouldn’t like happening to me. I know that many people share this philosophy, but many don’t. It is also a common thought that most trouble-makers come from a poor background. Again presumptuous, but I will stick my neck out and say that that statement is true. So what’s the link between a poor background and a trouble-maker (or someone with irrational thought).
Many people put the blame firmly on family problems such as separated parents. However, there are many people who are not poor, and whose parents are separated but can still think rationally and logically. Therefore, there must be another link. I strongly believe that the link is to do with food, or the type of food that is consumed.
Every time we are hungry, we seek food. One of our most basic instincts. We need to prevent our hunger. But I believe its how people prevent their hunger which may be part of the problem. Or, putting it another way, it’s what’s available to prevent hunger. A meal of grilled salmon, potatoes and broccoli will prevent hunger, but so will a bag of chips. A bag of chips can cost £1, and the salmon meal will cost three times that at least. Will a person who achieves satiety with chips be more likely to cause trouble than someone consuming the other meal. Although it doesn’t take a genius to work out which is healthier, the reasons why may not be so apparent. But the key is the salmon, or any oily fish.
Oily fish contains omega-3 fatty acids and one in particular being called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is thought to provide around 60% of the building blocks needed for our brain, central nervous system and retina. One of its main functions is to provide the correct structuring to the nerve cell membranes and keep them in what is known as a ‘fluid’ state. This allows the nerve cells to talk to each other which is vital. Obviously the effects of a bag of chips will not instantly cause someone to start a fight, or we’d all be in trouble, but consider two 25 year olds from two different backgrounds. One has had proper food available all their life and the other has had to eat fast food when hungry. Over the course of 20 years, the one eating the convenience foods more often will have an imbalance to their omega 3 intake and be severely deficient. Without this regular omega 3 intake, the cells of the central nervous system will not have the correct building blocks and not function properly. Could this lead to irrational thought and a trouble-making mentality. Some studies suggest that it can. Trials conducted using prison inmates have shown that by supplementing their diets with vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, it is possible to reduce anti-social behaviour and violent incidences.
However, the story does not just stop with anti-social behaviour, and our mental capacity is not restricted to deciding what to do in certain situations. Our ability to learn is limitless and our memory and communication skills are vital for everyday life.
There has been great interest recently regarding the use of omega 3 fatty acids and a child’s IQ. Many research papers, and particular a trial conducted in Durham, found that by supplementing your children’s diet with fish oils, it was possible to not only improve the IQ, but also increase the concentration time and improve their behaviour in class. This isn’t restricted to children either. Everyone can benefit from increasing their omega 3 intake.
Now it might be apparent to some people reading this that I have not placed any emphasis on omega 6 levels in the diet. There is a good reason for this and I will need to return to our two 25 year olds to help explain. Consider the diet of the person consuming convenience food on a regular basis. Convenience food immediately conjures up images of microwave meals, pizza, crisps, chips, biscuits etc and the vast majority of these kinds of foods are produced using omega 6 fatty acids as a processing aid. Therefore, this person’s omega 6 intake in very large compared to the omega 3 intake. So why is this important.
It has been discovered that human beings evolved using an omega 3:6 ratio of around 1:1. In other words, the omega 3 intake balanced the omega 6 intake. This ratio is perfect for our cell membranes to work properly and allow our cells to communicate. When we compare this to the theoretical ratio of the Western diet and lifestyle which is approximately 1:25, you can see a massive imbalance. This imbalance will impair the way that our cell membranes work and communication becomes difficult. Add to this the saturated fat contained in convenience foods and we are left with a cell membrane with virtually no omega 3 fatty acids, and cells that cannot pass information from one to another.
It is this passing of information, especially between brain and nerve cells, that is thought to be the problem when where poor IQ, lack of concentration and anti-social behaviour are concerned. It can contribute to an inability to think logically and clearly, and consider the thoughts and feelings of others. Post-natal depression is a good example of this. While a baby is developing in the womb, it draws upon the mother’s store of omega 3 fatty acids for its own growth. Once born, the mother is left severely deficient causing unbalanced cell membranes in the brain which ultimately leads to poor communication and an imbalance of serotonin, resulting in depression. Supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy is vital.
It would be very naïve to say that the solution to these problems is simple, but by educating people about the importance of omega 3 fatty acids and the effect they can have on a person’s mood and behaviour, it can at least be highlighted and stressed, wherever possible, to include some omega 3 into the weekly consumption habits. This can be done either by increasing the amount of oily fish in the diet such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna, or by supplementation. Who knows the effect this might have on the way people behave towards one another, or our academic capabilities and I’m convinced it’s worth a try.