Mind over Matter – the Omega wave!

Are you unhappy with your child’s results? Disturbed with your child’s behavior problems? Worried about your child’s lack of concentration? Children who eat a diet containing sufficient Omega 3s are better behaved, more intelligent
By: RPS Kohli
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Rajouri Garden - Delhi - India

Oct. 4, 2011 - PRLog -- Modern day parents are facing new challenges in the growing needs of their children, which directly impact their academic results, behavior and concentration. Junk foods coupled with increased uptake of processed food by growing children are not adequate enough to take care of their nutritional needs.

Some common problems in children can be anxiety, depression, aggression, mental performance, temperament , relationship disturbances with friends and family, poor school performance, phobia, thumb sucking, repetitive movements of muscle groups, stuttering, dysfluent speech, anxiety disorders, fearfulness, disruptive behavior, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, careless mistakes, avoiding sustained mental effort, fidgeting, and a score of more such problems.

World over scientists, researchers and doctors have documented some studies which are as surprising as revealing. There is mounting evidence to suggest that children who eat a diet containing sufficient Omega 3s are better behaved, more intelligent and even show lower levels of allergies.

What is Omega 3? Two fats which are essential to good health are called Omega 3 & Omega 6. They belong to a family of polyunsaturated fatty acids known as "Essential Fatty Acids" or EFAs. These fats are vital for good health and normal growth. They are called "Essential" because the body cannot manufacture them, or store much of them and have to be taken through the diet. In other words, they have to be eaten regularly. To make matters a more complicated - Omega 3 & 6 only keep their status as "Good Fats" when eaten in the right sort of balance. The typical diet that our children eat contains too much Omega 6 and too little Omega 3. That's way we need to increase our intake of Omega 3 in isolation, as our Omega 6 intake is normally sufficient. Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) is the principal Omega-3 fatty acid, which a healthy human will convert into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and later into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and the GLA synthesized from linoleic (Omega-6) acid are later converted into hormone-like compounds known as eicosanoids, which aid in many bodily functions including vital organ function and intracellular activity.

Omega-3s are used in the formation of cell walls, making them supple and flexible, and improving circulation and oxygen uptake with proper red blood cell flexibility and function. Omega-3 deficiencies are linked to decreased memory and mental abilities, tingling sensation of the nerves, poor vision, increased tendency to form blood clots, diminished immune function, increased triglycerides and "bad" cholesterol (LDL) levels, impaired membrane function, hypertension, irregular heart beat, learning disorders, menopausal discomfort, itchiness on the front of the lower leg(s), and growth retardation in infants, children, and pregnant women.

In an intensive trial conducted by Dr Alex Richardson, a senior research fellow in physiology at Mansfield College, University of Oxford and Madeleine Portwood, a special educational psychologist for Durham Local Education Authority, it was reported by BBC UK that statistically significant improvement was reported in school performance in the group of children given Omega 3 supplements.

The dramatic effects of Omega 3 fatty acids on the children in the Durham trial may hinge on several functions of fatty acids in the brain. It was found that Omega 3s may make it easier for signals to cross the gap between brain cells and also improve brain function at the very simplest level, by improving blood flow. However, studies such as the Durham trial suggest that all is not lost, and that boosting Omega 3 intake may still confer significant benefits.

Western diets contain very little Omega 3 fatty acid. Hydrogenation, the process used to give foods a long shelf life, removes them. But certain people may break down Omega 3 fatty acids faster than others. Some of the children who showed greatest improvement in the Durham trial might fall into this category.

According to the American Dietetic Association, adults should receive 20-35% of energy from dietary fats, avoiding saturated and trans ("bad") fats, and increasing omega-3 fatty acids. The Association also found that substitution of canola oil for fat commonly used in the U.S. would increase compliance with dietary recommendations for fatty acids, particularly in lowering saturated fat and increasing heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Dr Basant Puri, a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer at London's Imperial College, released his findings on Omega 3 and its effect on brain function and depression.
It was found that:   
•   Daily supplements of omega-3 Fatty Acids will boost the brain development of children by 3 years in only 3 months. Scans showed their brains developed three years in as many months as nerve fibres grew additional branches.
•   Children given capsules of Omega-3 grew additional “grey matter” which helps intelligence.
•   Brain scans, which showed the evidence of changes, were reinforced by results in tests of reading, concentration and short-term memory.
•   Children who took part in the study increased their reading ability by an average of a year and a quarter during the Omega-3 trial. The average increase in their reading age was a year and a quarter and their handwriting became more accurate.

The main reported benefits of Omega 3 for the body occur in the heart. The American Heart Association recommends including oils and foods rich in alphalinolenic acid (Canola, flaxseeds and walnuts). in order to reduce the likelihood of heart disease.

While research is still ongoing into the effects of Omega 3 on the heart, research to date has shown that they decrease risk of arrhythmias, which can lead to sudden cardiac death, decrease triglyceride levels, decrease growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, lower blood pressure. Additionally, Omega 3 has been reported effective as an anti-inflammatory.

The problem is to identify the most commonly used diet without changing your lifestyle a lot. It can be seen that cooking oil can be the one common link in each one of our lives. It can be a good source of Omega-3 nutrition for not only our children but for the parents too, if chosen carefully.

Most of the cooking oils lay tall claims as being Omega 3 rich but the truth is that, either their percentage of Omega 3 is too less or the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 is badly skewed. The lower the ratio is, the better is the oil. Here are the Omega 3 content and ratios of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids in some common cooking oils:

Canola Oil like Jivo (content 11%), Ratio 1:2
Olive Oils like Figaro & Leonardo (1%), 1:13
Sunflower oils like Sundrop & Sweekar (1%), 1:71
Safflower Oils like Saffola 1:88
Soybean oils like Fortune & Nature Fresh (7%), 1:7
Corn Oils (1%), 1:57
Groundnut Oils (negligible Omega 3) and
Palm Oils like Ruchi Gold (negligible Omega 3).
And typical Western diets provide ratios of between 1:10 and 1:30 - i.e., dramatically higher levels of Omega 6.

It is said that the Japanese have been found to be having very low incidence of depression, heart diseases and their children the most intelligent, due to their Omega 3 rich diet. Any good doctor or nutritionist will tell you that the best way to get any nutrient is to go right to the source and eat it through the foods they originate. In the case of Omega 3 this would most likely be in the form of Canola oil, fatty fish, flaxseed, walnuts etc. And it is a relief to know that finally a small change in dietary habits like switching over to healthier oils like Canola can bring about a turnaround in the family’s health.

It is said that ‘you are what you eat’ but now it also seems that ‘you act what you eat’, too.

--   Dr. D.S. Samloke, MBBS, MD, is a renowned practicing Physician and Child Psychologist researching the fields of child behavior and intelligence.


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