Future Index

Boosting IQ

Boosting IQ with the Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Gamma-Linolenic Acid (Oil of Evening Primrose)
    There have been several intriguing nutritional methods announced over the past month that may possibly boost  IQ (in some cases, if preliminary research holds up under closer scrutiny, possibly boosting IQ  significantly). By now, enough new (to me) material seems to have accumulated to warrant a closer look.
    The most significant set of results seems to be stemming from Oxford University studies in Durham County, England that involved supplementing the diets of "more than 100 junior schoolchildren between eight and 12 in County Durham" with a combination of fish oil (presumably, the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid... EPA... and docosahexaenoic acid...DHA), and oil of evening primrose (gamma-linolenic acid)".
    The original BBC article when I first read it told of dramatic enhancements in, for example, the reading and spelling levels of the students taking the supplements. It mentioned that up to 40% of the children showed remarkable improvements.
    A few hours later, this article had disappeared, replaced by the article linked above. What I suspect happened was that when the article appeared, the principal investigator(s) in the study read the article with horror. For one thing, it hasn't yet been revealed which students are taking the fatty acid capsules and which students are taking placebo capsules. For another, it would be considered a breach of professional ethics to report one's results in the media before subjecting them to a peer review.
    I was wrong about a retraction. The article I had read but couldn't find again was "Food supplements 'help problem children'". Five other articles that may be of interest are "Diet can ease problem behaviors", "Diet test for special needs pupils", "Mother's fishy diet boosts children ", "Exam season boosts 'brain food' sales", and Mental health: You are what you eat", Note the common items between the 'brain foods' consumed by Oxford students at exam time, and the 'brain foods' listed in the "Mental health: You are what you eat" article.
Can the Omega-3 Fats Improve on Prozac?
    Now, a new set of studies have shown that the omega-3 fats are as effective as Prozac at improving mood. And it's just been announced that Prozac may achieve its results by stimulating the creation of new neurons within the brain! Do fish oils stimulate the production of new neurons?
    In 1979, when Nathan Pritikin introduced the Pritikin low-fat diet, the conventional medical wisdom was that you needed very little fat in your diet. The body needed three essential fatty acids: linoleic acid, linolenic acid, and arachnidonic acid. Arachnidonic acid could be synthesized by the body, so you didn't really need it. If necessary, the body could also synthesize linolenic acid from linoleic acid, so all you really needed was linoleic acid. Furthermore, every living organism has a certain amount of these fats in them. After all, the cell walls and other cellular components are made of fats, so fats are present in everything you eat, including such non-fatty foods as lettuce and radishes.
    That's not true!
    As the second article observes,
    "Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated oils that cannot be made by the body and are derived primarily from seafood. The fatty acid with most direct influence on brain development and function is DHA."
    And a little farther down,
    "The DHA from omega-3 makes up the walls of neurons, Hibbeln said. 'The body cannot manufacture DHA so it has to get it from our diet.'"
    Also, in the same article,
    "At Sheffield University in England, Dr. Malcolm Peet gave omega-3 fatty acids to 70 depressed patients who had not been helped by drugs such as Prozac. After 12 weeks, 69 percent of the patients showed marked improvement compared with 25 percent given placebos."
    And in the United States,
    "'We've been very impressed by the response rates we've observed,' said Dr. David Mischoulon, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital who has overseen an omega-3 clinical trial. 'We believe there is definitely something to these treatments.'"
    And later,
    "'We're confident that the results he had were positive,' said Mischoulon. 'We've also observed similar responses in other people. So it's pretty clear in our minds that these treatments work.'"
    "Preliminary studies suggest 1 gram a day of omega-3 fatty acids can be an effective treatment, whether in the form of a nutritional supplement available at most health-food stores or simply by eating fish especially salmon, sardines or tuna several times a week."
    Here is another. earlier article concerning the antidepressant effects of the omega-3 oils: "Scientists back nature's anti-depressants".
    The omega-3 fatty acids are blood thinners, like aspirin, ibuprofen, vitamin E, gingko biloba, and coumadin. If you are already taking any of these blood thinners, you might want to be aware of this fact. (Tommie Jean is scheduled for a minor, day-surgery operation on Monday. She was warned last Monday to avoid, aspirin, ibuprofen, vitamin E, and all other blood thinners until after the operation.)
    One other caveat that should be mentioned is that fish oils, like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, produce free radicals. You'll want to be sure that you're getting ample antioxidants, "particularly, vitamin E", along with the fish oils.
    What's good about dietary measures like fish is that they're something you can eat day in and day out. They aren't drugs per se, but have been part of our natural diets for thousands of years. Also, whereas some herbs and drugs need to be taken every few hours for maximum effect, foods often work their magic for an extended period of time.
    The omega-3 oils were originally thought to be beneficial only to the circulatory system. It had been observed as early as 1908 that Eskimos ate nothing but meat and fatty fish, and yet, they had no cases of coronary artery disease. The connection between their non-existent coronary artery disease and the omega-3 fatty acids was first noticed in 1930. However, it wasn't until the early 1960's that Danish medical researchers began to aggressively pursue this relationship, and to advertise it to the world. The original idea was that the omega-3 oils acted as blood thinners, and inhibited the development of arterial plaques. (In 1979, when I investigated this topic in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition and in the cardiovascular journals, there was no hint that the omega-3 acids were essential to the nervous system and the circulatory system in the same way that the omega-6 fats are quintessential to the muscles.) Apparently, sometime between 1979 and the present, it was learned that the omega-3 oils play a much more fundamental role than acting as just a blood thinner.
    Here are tables listing the amounts of fatty acids in various oils. 
    I generally try to get my omega-3 oils from eating fish, and particularly, from eating salmon. One of the problems with these cold-water pelagic fish is the pollutants concentrated in them. There have been warnings about the mercury in tuna. A local medical doctor has pointed out that canned salmon is probably better from the standpoint of toxic pollutants than salmon steaks. He observed that the salmon that are canned are generally the smallest salmon, and that these are lower in the food chain than the larger salmon that are harvested for salmon steaks. Therefore, canned salmon should be less polluted. However, one of the supermarkets around here sells farm-raised salmon (as well as ocean-caught salmon), and I think I'll switch back to that. I know that won't be polluted with PCB's. It's more work than using canned salmon. I have to cut up the salmon fillets right away, and microwave them, and freeze them, or I'd have all the cats in the neighborhood lined up outside our back door (not to mention forcing Tommie Jean into to a motel). 
    There isn't much that's as aromatic as old fish.
    But that way, all I have to do is thaw, heat the salmon portions, mix up some tarter sauce, hold my nose and eat them.
    Just kidding! Just kidding! Freshly cooked salmon steak is quite good.
    I have read that salmon is unlike the other omega-3 fish in that it doesn't become contaminated the way that other fish do. (It may be that the salmon stay in deep water except when they come to spawn, and the pollutants are found near  the shorelines where all our polluted rivers debouch into the world's oceans.) But I've only read that once. Since they're available here in town, it's probably going to be a good idea to go with the farm-raised fish because you know they won't pick up pollutants. 

These Studies Seem to Demonstrate That Dietary Strategies Can Produce Marked Changes in Mental Acuity
    I'm excited that something has been found that shows such promising results. I'm also a bit perturbed at the conventional medical wisdom that I received 24 years ago that was obviously very wrong.
Has This Worked for Me?
    Tommie Jean and I have been taking various nutrients and supplements for a while now. What's happening with us?
    This is very subjective, but I feel exceedingly good, energetic, and clear-minded, and my guess is that the supplements may be responsible.
    There's one examination that might be used as a litmus test, and that's the digit-symbol test on the various versions of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. The digit/symbol subtest consists of nine symbols that are listed just below the nine digits 1 through 9. Then below this small digit/symbol conversion table are four rows with 25 random digits per row, and with a space below each digit. You are supposed to enter the symbol from the digit/symbol conversion table into the space below each digit. For example, in the small digit conversion table at the top of the page, a "1" might have a "+" below it, a "2" might have an "X" below it; a "3" might have an "O" below it, and so forth. You then have 90 seconds to fill in 90 of the 100 blank symbol boxes in the four rows of 25 digits. That means that you basically have to learn the digit/symbol connections, because you don't have time to look up each digit, check the symbol below it, and then draw the symbol into the blank symbol box. You have to go faster than that. So it's really a test of short-term-learning speed, and it falls off rapidly with age.
    Of course, you can make up your own set of nine symbols, and your own set of four rows of more or less randomly chosen digits, and take this test, timing yourself. (I don't think that practice will help you. I think it taps into fundamental neurological learning rates that tend to slow down as you grow older.)
    I'm trying Huperzine-A again.
    As I've previously mentioned, I've tried the herb Huperzine-A, made from Chinese club moss, twice before. Both times, after taking a 50-milligram capsule once a day for two or three weeks, I became somewhat dizzy. This time, I'm taking it once every other day. If that works for a few weeks, then I'll graduate to a once-a-day administration to see if there are adverse side effects (viz., vertigo). If not, it may be that the imbalance I experienced wasn't really related to  Huperzine-A. If so, then it will be pretty solid evidence that I, at least, experience unpleasant side effects from Huperzine-A.
    Huperzine-A is said to be more effective that either of the first two drugs developed for Alzheimer's Disease, Tacrine and Aricept. All three of these agents inhibit the breakdown of acetylcholine in the brain. (The third drug, Reminyl  (galantamine), is extracted from the gladiolus bulb. It's both an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor and a nicotinamide potentiator.)
    There is much more to come. There are other herbs and agents such as creatine and lemon balm that need to be discussed, but I'll have to research them a bit further.
    Besides, I'm getting slee-e-e-eepy.

    Today, I looked up lemon balm, piracetam, and phosphatidylserine. One excellent, authoritative-seeming source for information regarding herbs and supplements would seem to me to be the University of Maryland Medicine website. Their web directory covers a laundry list of ailments. I honed in on the Alzheimer's herbs and supplements list, and then on lemon balm.
    Once again, I've run out of time.

(To be continued)