WHEN a child’s school report is poor or when an adults just can’t put his or her acts together, not many people wonder if such persons have enough oil in their brains. The dry weight of the brain is almost 60 percent fat. That fact is enough evidence that fatty substances are required to maintain brain fat and to keep the brain working optimally.
By fatty substances, I do not mean just any type of fatty substance, otherwise that would be legitimizing such fats as margarine and many of those vegetable oils in the market which are better classified as “killer fats”. Rather, the fatty substances I am referring to are ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS which, as the word “essential”has come to be known means that the body cannot process it from any other substance and it has to come from foods. Plants and fish bring them to the dining table. So do factories which bring them to us in the form of food supplements.
My generation of babies about 70 years ago was a lucky one. Although we were bombarded with infant formulas such as OSTE MILK and COW and GATE, in the hope that they would help us grow better if we were fed exclusively on breast milk, a misnomer in today’s better enlightened “baby friendly” world, our parents made sure we were given COD LIVER OIL in the diet everyday.
In high school, I learned that this oil provided the eyes with lots of vitamin A and made the bones and the nerves to grow well and strong, apart from improving immunity and warding off colds and flu.As a parent, I tried to introduce my children to the cod liver oil culture but found it too expensive to do.I discovered there were two brands in the Lagos market. One was the “original”, made in HULL, England. It smelled like the cod liver oil of those good old days. The other had a foul smell and taste. It was Indian made. A pharmacist explained to me that the difference was in the base or carrier oil.
Thus, one may not be getting the real value for one’s money and, on top of that, one maybe compromising the health of one’s child or children. So, I gave up until my children were old enough to be weaned on,say,corn pap to which their mother added shredded ,ground and cooked “original Titus fish, one of the richest fish sources of OMEGA 3 essential fatty acids.I was to learn later that the value of omega 3 in cod liver oil proprietary formula could not match that in a whole Titus fish.
We all take our brains for granted. Even as adults,how many of us know what it is, how it is and what keeps it going at optimal performance, what we should feed it with and what, for its sake, we should cut out of the diet.
Goat head pepper soup, a Nigerian delicacy especially in beery atmosphere, was a great friend of my pallate almost two decades ago. But I got off this train at pepper soup joints when the cold and hard facts of fat consumption on health began to down on my generation. Who wished to die off a stroke, heart disease or heart attack? The goat’s head and brain always reminds me of the human head and brain when it comes to questions of brain health and optimal function in children and adults.
I will be 69 in August, and I would like my brain to keep working for many more years as it has been ,if not better, from my twenties. Early in that second decade of earth life, my paths led me to journalism, a highly pressure packed profession which forces you to be not only on your toes, because the newsroom is a time unfriendly military set up of sorts, and, also, to the university at 24 where, in some cases, I had to compete with some fellows about five years younger. Back from school to newsrooms which demanded interactions with about 500 staff every day in work schedules which ran from about 11 am to 2am everyday, sometimes across week ends, meant that the brain must really be up and doing. Apart from journalists and consciencious editors, the only other group or people I have seen who takes a lot of pressure in the head are medical students. Maybe because their future work would involve life or death, they are so mentally abused by their education that many of them are like broomsticks when they finally emerge from the other side of the furnace.
Unfortunately, however, they aren’t well educated about how to use nutrition to make the brain healthy and optimally functional. They hardly have time to eat, and they eat mostly junk food, and in a hurry, when they have little time to put something into their battered bodies. My son was a lucky medical student because he had been exposed to my work in Alternative Medicine Advocacy before he went to medical school and because, out there,he had a steady monthly stock of such brain nourishers and energizers as gingko biloba, lecithin, Gotu kola, essential fatty acids (EFAs) alpha lipoic acid, magnesium, grape seed extract and the likes of them. I have a niece in medical school right now who, I believe ,has learned some hard lessons on the need to eat for the brain. A young woman aged about 20 years, she is lucky to have a mother who believes in nutrition and never fails to stock up her brain and nerves food supplements.Unfortunately for many children and adolescents at school,their parents do not understand this conversation or do not care about it.
Water comprises about 70 percent of the brain. This is an interesting feature in a world where the earth’s surface is between 70 and 75 percent water and plants, too, contain that much water. When we think, the brain uses water and needs the replenishment. The replenishment has to be plain water, not water serving as a solvent or carrier of some substance,the solute, as in soft drinks or teas and beverages.There is no one who does not think. For thought precedes any action, be it speech or the movement of an arm or leg. So, it is possible for the brain to become dehydrated like a car carbeurator which has been overheated by the loss of cooling water.
The remainder of the brain is about 60 percent water. Fats easily degenerate. To observe this, place a piece of fatty meat or beef beside a piece of ban meat or beef on a table for about one week.The fatty one would degenerate fast.That is oxidation or rusting. And that, as we observe when air(oxygen)and degrade iron.That is why fatty organs in the body can easily degenerate under certain conditions. Among such organs are the prostate, the testes, the ovary, the breast,the eye and the brain.For the fat content of these organs not to deteriorate, they must be protected by certain substances known as antioxidants and by essential fatty acids(EFAs). Some antioxidants are active in only fat or water medium .Some are active in both. Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) works in both media protectively. EFAs,in particular omega 3 and omega 6, in ratio 1:1 or 1:4 help these organs to make these protective cell wall s which do not allow “criminal” substances to penetrate to the contents within .Imagine the house in which you live in Lagos, Nigeria. It has a high perimeter fence which helps to keep would be intruders away, be they human or animal. The house also is walled around to protect residents and furnishing. The windows have steel bars for this purpose as well.The cells of every organ is similarly protected by its cell membrane, which is formed from phospholipids.If the cell does not get the right phospholipids, or obtain them in the right amounts,it will make do with whatever is available, and this may lead to the formation of inferior or sub natural cell walls,which will allow all manner of intrusion and may be unable to prevent leakages,especially under free radical attacks and, which are said to number many thousands on a cell everyday ,boring holes into them and causing sometimes deadly leakages. Imagine this going on in the brain without any serious protection because the diet either promotes the possibility of these attacks or fails to provide these nutrients that are needed for cellular protection.We hear of acidity in the brain which causes irritation and pain. We hear of all sorts of headaches, whether tension,cluster or migraine.We hear of inflammation.We hear sleeplessness or sleep disorders which are not helped by powerful sleep inducing drugs. But we do not relate them with these events in the brain.We also see children whose school reports are poor, children who are hyperactive and suffer from short attention spans, we see adults who are rolling stones which gather no moss or so little of it, we see people who do not dream or who do not dream or who cannot remember their dreams at all or easily, and we do not realise something odd is going on in the brain.
NEURONS…The average adult persons brain contains about 100 billion neurons.A neuron is a center of activity in the brain for receiving, classifying ,storing and retrieving information for use when such information is needed.The more the neurons a person has the more intelligent he or she is said to be.If the neurons are plentiful,they are closely packed and the shorter the distance between them,the less likely will the fidelity or quality of information be diminished or lost.If the neurons are far apart,quality loss is possible across the divide. Modern day experiments are showing that babies whose mothers consumed lots of omega 3 fatty acids when they were in the womb or who were well fed with it in omega 3 rich breast milk,or boo had it well supplied in their diets while their brains were still forming up till the age of five or six years have more neurons in the brains,were more likely to be more intelligent than not so lucky children and had the prospects of better vision and nervous systems when they grew up.
Neurons are irreplaceable when they die or are lost,and ,so,have to be well nurtured to keep them going and working optimally.There is good news for the person who does not have a large population of neurons from the womb or in childhood.Neurons have projections called DENDRITES which grow from one neuron towards another, filling any gap between them as it were. They help to propel communication between neurons in ways peculiar to them. With all the neurons generating electrical energy said to be enough to light a bulb, so many electrochemical activities go on in the brain, powered by many chemical substances which come from natural food. The roles of potassium, sodium, chloride,calcium and magnesium in all of these is well highlighted. So are the roles of amino acids which are building blocks for the production of neuro transmitters,chemical messengers of the brain such as glutamate, GABA, Acetyl choline, dopamine, histamine, melatonin,serotonin etc. A diet deficient in amino acids means insufficiency of some neurotransmitters as the body cannot manufacture some amino acids.Sadness and depression may arise where there is not enough dopamine.Too little melatonin at night may cause sleeplessness or insomnia.These neurotransmitters excite or restrain.When they work in harmony,the individual is in a state of balance.Many children and adults are unbalanced.
BLOOD…Blood vessels in the brain run into several kilometers if stretched out.If they are partially blocked ,they may not deliver the right amounts of blood and nutrients,including oxygen,to the cells or remove the waste products of their metabolism,and other poisonous substances.The brain consumes about 20 percent of the body’s total oxygen intake,and may die if it does not receive oxygen for about 5 minutes.Thus,poor blood circulation in the brain may cause shrinkage and/or atrophy of the cells some neurons may in fact be lost.Junk diet easily clogs the blood vessels or hardens them.The vessels may become fragile and leaky because of poor maintainance.Grape seed extract is a great antioxidant protector of the brain.
Ginkgo biloba, like Gotu kola, circulates blood to all nooks and crannies of the brain.How many of us adults or our children add these gifts of mother nature to our diet.
MAGNESIUM…population studies show that many people suffer from a deficiency of this mineral.It is an antagonist of calcium which many people have in abundance .Calcium contracts ,creating tension. Magnesium relaxes, freezing from stress. Muscle pulls, like cramps or premature ejaculation, may be signs of magnesium deficiency.So are palpitations of the heart.In glaucoma,calcium in the absence of magnesium, infiltrates sensitive muscles of the drainage channel of the eye, reducing out flow of fluid and causing fluid back up at the back of the eye ball which may damage sensitive nerve fibers and impair vision.In the brain, magnesium plays crucial roles in short term and long term memory stabilization as many researchers say:
Dr Timothy D Sheehan M.D,author of HOW OUR BRAIN WORKS: says magnesium ions are the soldiers or goalkeepers between neuro cell receptors and cell membranes.The receptors are responsible for short term and long term memory.”without adequate magnesium,there is essentially no soldiers at the gate to block the free flow of ions and this can lead to cell death and issues related to short and long term recall.There are many brain health issues that can be impacted by magnesium.Magnesium aids the brain with regulation of excessive cortisol related to stress. According to science daily, magnesium can help reduce the release of adreno cogitotrophic hormone(ACTH). According to www.ancient minerals.com:”Research is finding a connection between magnesium deficiency and depression.Researchers reviewed case histories showing rapid recovery (less than seven days) from major depression using 125 to 300mg of magnesium with each meal and at bed time. In these case reviews, magnesium supplementation was found to help with brain conditions such as traumatic brain injury , headache, suicidal ideation, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, postpartum depression, cocaine, alcohol and tobacco abuse, hypersensitivity to calcium, short term memory loss and I.Q loss. They concluded that the possibility that magnesium deficiency may be a huge contributory factor for many health and brain related conditions. Additional research concluded that magnesium seems to be effective in the treatment of depression and disturbance in magnesium metabolism might be related to depression.These researchers suggest magnesium supplementation as an adjunctive therapy for those struggling with depression.In even more recent study, dietary magnesium intake was found to have an association with the risk of depression. This is the first prospective study with 20 years of follow up to report the association between magnesium intake and the incidence of depression in men.Hospitalized participating moderate dietary magnesium had a significantly decreased risk of getting a hospital discharge diagnosis of depression versus those receiving the longest dose of magnesium”. Ladies and gentlemen,this column has never relented in preaching the gospel of green plant powders such as wheatgrass, spirulina, barley grass, kale, chlorella etc.
In one column about 12 years ago, I wrote: LET’S DRINK GREEN, THE EARTH IS NOT GREEN FOR THE FUN OF IT. The green in plants is CHLOROPHYLL. The central atom of chlorophyll is MAGNESIUM.So,when we consume these green powder drinks,or eat deep green leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale,we are consuming magnesium along with other nutrients.I hope that my guests at home will now have at least a clue to why a jar of spirulina, chlorella, or wheatgrass is always on my dining table.When I eat,I think not only of my palpate or stomach but of my brain as well. I have done my bit as a parent for my children.I hope that they, too, and you parents will do the same for your children so that we will have fewer and fewer AD and ADHD children in school and ADHD adults around.