Here’s a study that no pregnant mother should read – unless they want to send themselves into a stress response and destroy all that lovely pregnancy Zen they have been cultivating!
Maternal dietary imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids impairs neocortical development via epoxy metabolites!
(Some dope sounding words there!!)
You can read it all here if you think you might want to get pregnant any time soon! http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/stem.2246/full
It’s a pretty dense read but in a nutshell it says:
- The final positioning of our brain cells is set for life very early in embryonic gestation.
- This process is determined by nutritional factors (…Ya don’t say!!)
- One common way for the process to go wrong (common in the western world that is) is because of our very top heavy consumption of Omega 6 oils in comparison to Omega 3.
The paper also mentions the very interesting “developmental origins of health and disease” hypothesis which says that “nutrition in early life stages determines the risk of onset of various diseases in adulthood”. In other words how we are nourished as embryos and as kids has a HUGE effect on our disease risks later on.
Think about this for a minute – it is saying that if we get our kids nutrition wrong from the get-go they are going to suffer badly as they age, plus – there’s very little we can do about it after the fact.
I hate this idea but I have to reluctantly agree there’s something in it.
I do challenge the second part of the hypothesis though – the part that says there is precious little we can do about it.
Studies like the now famous ‘First 1000 Days’, do indeed show that poor nutrition in early life has a big impact on us as we age, but these studies largely relate to people who continue living the same way they started, i.e. people who don’t change. In other words if they start off on a poor diet they tend to continue eating a poor diet – and hey presto they eventually get a disease. On the other hand we have oodles of studies showing that we can mitigate our disease risk by switching to a healthy diet – so long as we spend a good long time on that healthy diet. This – as many of us have experienced, is not that easy to accomplish – but that’s a conversation for another day!
I maintain that whilst a lot of harm is done by virtue of eating nutrient poor diets in the first thousand days of your existence it is still possible to roll a good portion of it back once you become smart to the fact. I don’t think you can ever roll it all back – some of it is permanent! I can’t ‘prove’ what I’m saying here – but if you put several Nutritional Therapists is a room and hear their stories you would be filled with awe at the healing power of the human body. People do get better very often when they nourish their bodies properly.
But going back to the paper above, if we eat too much omega 6 oils in early gestation – meaning if mom’s diet is heavy in omega 6 compared to omega 3 oils – we develop a complicated imbalance that affects our whole body, but in particular it affects the brains of gestating embryos, and this effect will persist for life. The paper is saying that the imbalance gives rise to a complicated milieu of metabolic by-products that alter the very process that determines where baby’s brain cells end up in the skull. Think about the blob of a fetus that eventually grows a brain, and all the magic that has to occur to orchestrate the migration of those tiny cells to the exact right place in the brain! As incredible as it is the process can be disturbed by something as simple as having too much Omega 6 and too little Omega 3 (a situation that could hardly happen in nature during our evolutionary past because it is only possible due to the industrialization of the food supply!)
Exactly what the end result is of having your brain cells end up in the wrong place is not fully elucidated in the paper but it hints at cognitive impairment.
Enough of the heavy stuff – what’s the take away message?
Quit eating processed vegetable oils and any foods with that stuff added to it, then add some flax seeds and oily fish to your diet. That’s pretty much it!
All those so called healthy polyunsaturated ‘vegetable’ oils we are told to eat to protect our heart – they are all omega 6 oils – and to boot all the commercial ones are over-heated and rancid. It is the rancidity that has some scientists questioning if it is not the omega 6’s themselves but rather the fact that they have been super-heated that is the real problem, but that’s a topic for another day.
The quickest way to rectify an omega imbalance is to drop all processed oils, cut drastically back on the quantity of grains you eat, and take high quality cod liver or salmon oil for a few months. I used the words High Quality on purpose there because most of the stuff on sale is not high quality and the evidence is mounting that low quality Omega 3 oils can drive a whole other set of problems in the body. It’s serious stuff!
Yours in health