Special Generating Healthy Brains Edition
Edition 40/1 Summer 2006
The McCarrison Society Newsletter
Nutrition Quality Health
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Edmund Burke’s profound words could be applied to those members of our democratic electorate who selfishly and stubbornly refuse to vote. In their ignorance they seemingly don’t realise democratic systems need voters for the system to work: without sufficient voters it becomes a dictatorship, elected by a very small percentage of the population – currently just over 1 in 5.
Similarly Burke’s words could be applied to politicians (of all hues and colours) who choose to do nothing regarding regulation of advertising and the peddling of junk (rubbish) food to the nutritionally uneducated of our society: including our school children – who will shortly be producing our next generations.
The week beginning January 16th 2006 was a good week for those campaigning for better food to create healthier minds. Joint publications between Sustain: the Alliance for better food and farming, and the Mental Health Foundation appeared ‘midst media fanfare: Changing Diets, Changing Minds: how food affects mental well-being and behaviour (aimed at stakeholders in the food and farming sector) and Feeding Minds: the impact of food on mental health (aimed at stakeholders in the mental health sector).
On Tuesday 17th of that week the McCarrison Society for Nutrition and Health together with the International Society for Prenatal and Perinatal Medicine (ISPPM) and the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition held our highly successful conference Generating Healthy Brains linking nutrition and psychology at the Innholders' Hall in the City of London – a report follows below. Material from the conference made the cover of the Economist, was mentioned in the editorial, and included in a 2-page report1. Other newspapers also reported its findings, including the Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Times and United Press, and a most helpful article in Foods Matter.
The conference addressed both the alarming EU cost of mental ill health at 386 billion euros (at 2004 prices) and the World Health Organisation’s predictions for 2020 – less than 15 years away – that should we choose to do nothing to stem this tsunami of madness, one third of our population will by then be suffering from some form of mental ill health or brain disorder - a frightening thought if ever there was one.
The more so when already we see so many tragic examples of mental unwellness wandering around our streets and on our public transport. Predictions such as these date back to 1972 when our Chairman published the prediction that unless something was done to correct the food system, brain disorders would follow in the wake of the rise in mortality from heart disease – from the brain being less well-served with blood, and therefore nutrients. This has now happened. The 386 billion euros is the highest cost in the EU’s burden of ill health at 25% followed by heart disease at 17%.
Such predictions would make the current combined UK and EU governments’ maladministration in releasing 1000 foreign criminals into the community seem like a child’s tea party in comparison. For the WHO prediction would involve tens of millions of both sad and also dangerous people.
The current concern is caused by the exploding rise in mental ill health in children – who are not so much in public gaze – the poor things often being in hospital or home-bound. This won’t come as much of a surprise to many, for have we not seen for decades what rubbish foods so many children have been brought up on; and indeed, adults fed on?
Our current government, whilst banning advertising junk tobacco (except in motor racing circles after being given a million pound bung), refuse to ban the advertising of junk food: despite the fact that illness caused by junk food is estimated to cost the national health service three times what smoking costs. (It is right to stress that our Society is apolitical and Labour is not alone in supporting poor nutritional policy - indeed amongst the first things that the Thatcher administration legislated for allowed more water to be put in meat, and more air put in bread).
Jamie Oliver, who has done so much of late to improve the diet of our nation’s children demonstrates his frustration in his latest outburst. He has complained that he manages to talk to one Minister, then, when he seeks further audience, finds there is new Minister who says ‘time is needed to get into post’. The next thing that happens is yet another ministerial replacement so nothing gets done. What a way to plan the wealth of the nation – our children’s health! Of which, more below…
Everyone should read George Monbiot’s excellent article “Tough on crime, to hell with causes of crime if they make money”2. Monbiot cites a recent publication3 ‘providing empirical evidence’ that ‘the longer children watch television, the more overweight they become because not only do they exercise less, but they eat more of what they watch during the commercials… junk foods: fizzy drinks, crisps, biscuits, sweets, burgers and chicken nuggets’. The paper reported that hours watching telly ‘is also inversely associated with intake of fruit and vegetables’.
He goes on to ask what such junk food diets do to the mind, in addition to making 27% of girls and 24% of boys aged 11-15 more likely to develop diabetes and to die before they reach 50. He then discusses research carried out in penal establishments – one published by the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine in 19974 and Bernard Gesch’s study at Aylesbury detention centre5 on junk food and nutrition supplementation and behaviour. Results in both studies were outstanding both in terms of the amount of improvement recorded over the time of the trials, and the speed with which the improvements occurred. Confirmation has recently come from Alex Richardson’s EFA supplementation study of 117 school children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) in which significant improvements were found in spelling, learning and behaviour6.
Monbiot concludes by showing how our UK and EU governments are as bad as each other in this regard, commenting that Ofcom (Independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries) “claims that tougher rules would cost the industry too much. To sustain the share values of the commercial broadcasters, Ofcom is prepared to sacrifice the physical and psychological well-being of our children”.
These shocking facts tally with one outcome of our Generating Healthy Brains conference, which (whilst not openly stated) left attendees with the impression that the guidelines dished out by the Food Standards Agency on the consumption of fish for pregnant women – only 2 portions of oily fish a week – had been wildly understated. For the women in a recent study who had ignored the guidelines and eaten much more fish, had by far the healthiest, advanced and cleverest (IQ increase of 6 points) babies.
Echoes here of George Monbiot’s sentiments – “To sustain share values …. [fund managers are] prepared to sacrifice the physical and psychological well-
being of our next generations - the wealth of the nation”.
1. From Economist website - www.economist.com Joseph Hibbeln spoke about his research at the “Generating Healthy Brains” conference (report below). He discussed the benefits of omega-3s on BBC Radio Four’s “Food Programme” Data was drawn from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Two studies published in January 2006, by the Mental Health Foundation and Sustain, claim that changes in diet have contributed to a rise in mental ill-health.
2. Guardian, Tuesday May 2, 2006 see www.monbiot.com (thanks to both for permission to quote).
3. Gortmaker SL, Must A, Sobol AM, Peterson K, Colditz GA & Dietz WH 1996) Television viewing as a cause of increasing obesity among children in the United States, 1986-1990. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 150: 356-362.
4. Peter C, Bennett W & Brostoff J (1997)The Health of Criminals Related to Behaviour, Food, Allergy and Nutrition: A Controlled Study of 100 Persistent Young Offenders. Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine 7(4): 359-
5. Gesch CB, Hammond SM, Hampson SE, Eves A & Crowder MJ (2002) Influence of supplementary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids on the antisocial behaviour of young adult prisoners. The British Journal of Psychiatry 181: 22-28.
6. Richardson AJ, Montgomery P (2005) The Oxford-Durham study: a randomized, controlled trial of dietary supplementation with fatty acids in children with developmental coordination disorder. Paediatrics 115(5):1360-6.
The latest new initiative by Government is to spend £62 million on the UK Biobank (www.biobank.ac.uk) project. This is a 30-year epidemiological study, funded by the Department of Health, the MRC, the Wellcome Trust and the Scottish Executive. From 2006 the project will collect information on the health and lifestyle of 500,000 UK volunteers aged between 40 and 69. The aim is to build the world’s largest information resource on the genetic and environmental factors that cause or prevent human disease.
Sir Richard Doll in his seminal thesis on cancer in which he identified smoking as a major cause of lung cancer claimed that 30-70% of cancers were related to food, and are therefore preventable. The 7 Country study of 1950s- 1970s, the MRFIT, the Framingham studies in the USA of the 70s, 80s and 90s, the Nurses studies of over 100,000 women followed for 1,077,536 person-years in the USA, together with the reports on trans fatty acids being even more harmful than a high saturated fat diet1, speak with one voice delineating nutritional distortion as a major cause of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and Western cancers. David Barker’s work has identified the importance of maternal and foetal nutrition, which adds to the evidence available in the 1970s that heart disease has a paediatric cause.
These large studies were built on what has been described as the library shelves groaning under the weight of scientific, and experimental evidence implicating bad nutrition in the 20th century Western disease. By the time of the 1978 FAO / WHO Expert International Consultation on the “Role of Dietary Fats and Oils in Human Nutrition”2 there were already 21 national and international committee reports recommending action on food production and nutrition, identifying school children and pregnancy as vulnerable targets for the effects of such distortions and making specific food based recommendations for a revision of food production.
30 years later we are told we need to invest £62 million and wait for another 10 -30 years before we know the answer.
The answer is simply embedded in Sir Robert McCarrison’s prescription of “The unsophisticated foods of Nature”.
In other words Sir Jack Drummond’s proven ethic of linking nutrition and health needs to be restored. The post war rejection of his ethic, which replaced Drummond and McCarrison’s food nutritional quality by food production and weight gain, needs to be stopped. All that did was to produce surpluses of empty calories, which are now being exported at subsidised
prices to developing countries while simultaneously exporting Western Disease. You do not need £62 million of taxpayer’s money and rocket science to understand what is happening and how to deal with it. The priority should be nutrient quality, not weight gain.
1. Mozaffarian D, Katan MB, Ascherio A, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC (2006) Trans fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. New England Journal of Medicine 354(15):1601-13.
2. FAO / WHO Expert International Consultation on the “Role of Dietary Fats and Oils in Human Nutrition” (1978) Nutrition report no 3, FAO, Rome.
Special Report On The McCarrison Society’s 40th Anniversary Conference
The McCarrison Society for Nutrition and Health in association with
The Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition and
The International Society for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology & Medicine (ISPPM)
"Generating Healthy Brains"
A cutting edge Joint Conference on how nutrition, hormones and genomics are causing mental-ill health and affecting future generations
which was held with the gracious permission and assistance of the Worshipful Company of Innholders.
City of London
Tuesday 17 January 2006
GHB:Report by Conference Planner and Organiser Rev Simon House, MA
Generating Healthy Brains
Nutrients, Hormones and Genomics in Mental Development:
Achieving mental health through co-ordinated care of life’s beginnings.
Today nutrition and psychology were brought together at a conference for the first time this millennium. Focus on the brain was in the context of evolution and of ecologic and economic development.
If human health is not safeguarded, particularly health of the brain, global dangers will increase. We could evolve towards less sensitive intelligence, a poorer capacity for loving, a less rich ecology in a more toxic environment, in a downward spiral. At least 3 speakers commented that the one current sign of hope for a turn in the tide was, extraordinarily, the actions of a young celebrity chef who had made himself audible, despite – or perhaps partly because of – his shocking language. Jamie Oliver was achieving the application of key research results of some of today’s speakers, passionately calling to end the decades of futile delay.
Jamie Oliver’s breakthrough, being the first, was the most difficult. It must be followed urgently by attention to what matters far more: nutrition from before conception of a child. The good news is that children’s health, taste and eating habits will be changed for life, so that they will have healthier children. Also good news is the power and convergence of the scientific evidence. Only stupidity or greed could continue to prevent improvements.
At last the two main aspects of nurture that influence a child’s development; nutritional and emotional, became an integral subject in this conference in which the McCarrison Society was joined by the:
International Society for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Medicine, The Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition and The Mother and Child Foundation.
The Conference was opened by ISPPM’s recent president Dr. Ludwig Janus. He pointed out that there is now good scientific evidence that an infant’s need for emotional and physical closeness with its mother is as great as its need for nutrition.
GHB: Preconception to late adolescence: key impacts on brain development & function.
Simon House MA – McCarrison Society & ISPPM, scientific writer, presented an overview of some of the most powerful effects of nurture in the 20-year span from before conception to late adolescence. He showed that the nutritional health of both parents before conception was even more important than the maternal nutrition status in pregnancy, quoting the Dutch hunger winter of 1944-5.
This is well illustrated by Hungarian double-blind controlled trial1 of preconception supplements, including for instance folic acid (double the normal dose), zinc and vitamin B12, involving 4000 women. There were 6 neural tube defects in the control group, with none at all in the trial group. Under-nutrition can prevent the neural tube from sealing properly, which may not only cause spina bifida and cleft palate but could also leave the seal for the brain hemispheres less than perfect, and the higher and lower regions for the brain inadequately demarcated. If this led to poorer development of connections the brain’s ability to transmit signals properly could be impaired. Such is a feature of autism, ADHD and behavioural problems. One problem is when the rational mind fails to communicate effectively enough with the emotional/motor to control spontaneous actions, and this could spring from poor formation of the first cells at the neural tube stage.
With imaging of both structure and activity of regions and connections in the brain, the flaws and their origins are becoming clearer, their prevention more and more practicable. Foresight Preconception2 have shown that in 9 out of 10 cases of reproductive difficulty, including apparent infertility, they can guide a responsive couple to a fully healthy baby through infection and toxin control combined with nutrition analyses.
Emotional factors such as shock also leave their mark. After the 1994 Californian earthquake a survey showed that significantly more mothers shocked in the first trimester had premature babies than those further advanced in pregnancy. This could well be due to the gradual build-up of shock-repressant corticotrophin-releasing-hormone which only begins in the second trimester. On the other hand it was children in the third trimester at 9/11 that later turned out to be more stressed than those less advanced at the time. The emotional effects of forceps delivery combined with early separation from the parent correlates with a four times the risk of a child being criminally violent at the age of 18.
Further changes in the brain are between 3 and 5 years, when the neocortex is becoming effective, and most previous memories are left behind. Around puberty there is pruning and redevelopment to suit the way the brain is becoming used. Times of rapid growth pose a problem. The third trimester when the brain, already large, is making huge demands on the mother’s resources for the omega3 DHA, often leaving her deprived and prone to depression. In late adolescence the problem, particularly in males, is due to competition from the large body’s rapid growth, ubiquitously demanding DHA at some risk to the brain. Consequently this is a peak time for violent behaviour. Throughout these times it is not only nutritional nurture, but emotional nurture too, which can make or break: raising a person who is loving and peaceful, or one who is deprived and liable to compulsions and violence. We know now the ways to be tough on the causes of crime. It is just a matter of the will and the readiness for the relatively low cost of generating healthy brains.
GHB: From past to present: evolution and epigenetics.
David Marsh: McCarrison Society, scientific writer – explained, for the less scientific conferees, the meaning of epigenesis: the ability of environmental influences to act upon a genetic mechanism and thus change its expression. Although, in the 19th century and before, environmental influences were believed to be important in directing evolutionary development, for the last 100 years (post Professor A. Weismann) it was thought that proteins from the nucleus built cells regardless of environmental influences. It is now coming to be accepted again that environmental pressures (nutritional, chemical etc) are able to ‘throw genetic switches’. For relevant research check www.brucelipton.com/references.php
GHB: CLEAVE LECTURE Nutrition, the brain and mental ill health.
Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, MD – Chief of Outpatient Clinic, Lab of Membrane Biophysics and Biochemistry, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, NIH, US Public Health Service Commander.
Here was American hi-tech at its best, directed to the best of purposes, health and sanity. In Michael Crawford’s word, as he presented the Cleave Cup – ‘Stunning’. With powerful statistics Joe exposed the damaging effects of our Western diets on mental health. Pinpointing fallacies in current misleading guidelines, he revealed the epidemiology and nutritional mechanisms of these intakes and their interrelated effects.
The benefits in gestation of omega3s and the false scare of mercury.
Dr. Hibbeln focused on the last century’s heavy shift in Western diet away from omega3 oils to omega6, which has recently been confused by the issue of pollutants. Clearing this confusion first, without diminishing the general threat of pollution, he showed that the scare in seafood of methyl mercury, released from power stations, had been assessed as for the bluefin tuna. But even in the tuna, for every 0.01g of methyl mercury there are 2500g of omega3. There were two studies: The Seychelles study showed no adverse effects. And for the Faeroe Islands if you allow for the content of pilot whale, which anyway is low in selenium, it shows no general problem (How many McCarrison Society members eat pilot whale? – Ed.)
In contrast the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) involving over 14,000 children, shows children to be benefiting from higher levels of prenatal and postnatal maternal omega3s, despite the levels of mercury from fish. Those on the highest fish diets compare favourably with those on the lowest in these respects:
Fine motor control at 3 ½ years – slightly but significantly higher by 0.3%.
Pathological behavioural disorder – down from 14 to 8%.
IQ at 8 years – 6% higher.
Suboptimal IQ at 8 years – down by 1/3rd, (34% to 22%) – this being a lifetime predictor of serious problems of aggressive disorders, alcoholism and others.
Verbal IQ at 8 years – up 6 points, 104 to 110.
All these are despite any higher intake of methyl mercury from fish, and for fish intakes well above the official 2004 FSA advice.
The mechanism of these gains is revealed in three studies:
DHA & AA supplemented formula milk, compared with standard, for piglets correlated with nearly double the neurotransmitters, in particular serotonin, which is vital in signalling neuron migration and development of brain connections.
DHA-supplemented rat pups correlated with greater hippocampal population of neurons, greater neurite length and number of branches, able to sustain the later pruning process.
Human tissue study. The membrane walls of Americans are full of omega6’s; Japanese full of omega3s, allowing membrane shape-changing at 1000-fold the rate
for signal transmission. Meanwhile membranes releasing omega6s into the system lead to the high US levels of thrombosis and mental disorder, unlike Japan, and 107 genes alter their expression, in the central nervous system included.
Ideally we should change the omega6/3 balance radically more in line with our evolution – 3 or even 2:1 – but the situation is driven between two multi-
billion industries, soy on the one hand, and on the other anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin etc, which could amount to a disincentive. Today’s US and GB diets often have a ratio of omega6/3 between 10 or 20:1, boding ill for our cell membranes.
(Note: front-line researchers currently regard the omega6:3 ratio of cell membranes in red blood cells as a marker of health of individuals: for it will be reflected in almost all the other cells in the body. These delicate intracellular membranes are comprised of a bi-lipid layer of long chain polyunsaturated fats and proteins – making a super-sophisticated mesh. Should the omega6:3 ratio be wildly out – as in omega6:3 of 10:1, sometimes even 20:1, this is regarded as a predictor of current state of health and future health. Ed).
The dangers in the shift from omega3s to omega6s.
The West suffers not just from low intakes of omega3s, but also their displacement by omega6s.
US soy production in the last century rose from virtually nothing to 20% of energy intake – 10% being linoleic acid – based on Hibbeln’s study of 987 foods.
Correspondingly, energy from omega6 linoleic consumption rose 8 times as fast as omega3 alpha linolenic - from green leaves and fish - (2.7% to 7% against 0.3% to 0.8%) whereas, in our evolutionary diet, omega6 - from seeds and meat - had often been limited by availability.
The results on health of this shift are visible in a series of statistics:
In the 50 years 1935-85 depression rose 100-fold (1 per 100,000 to 1 per 1000).
Between high- and low-consumers of fish there is a difference in depression rates of 50-fold.
The addition of omega3s to treatment with anti-depressives correlates with several times the effect.
morbidity, including cardiovascular, depression and homicide, correlate with linoleic consumption, whereas cross-nations studies show homicide to correlate inversely with seafood consumption.
In a young persons’ prison3,4 supplements with fish oils, vitamins and minerals over 9 months reduced violent behaviour by a third. In three months, DHA & EPA alone reduced aggressive behaviour among alcoholics also by one-third, especially important since alcohol reduces DHA levels, as does smoking.
Finding the right RDA for omega3s.
How can we gauge the level at which a nation needs to consume omega3s, to recommend a daily allowance (RDA)?
We note that aiming within 97% of the optimum for omega3 will still keep well away from any adverse risk of excess while minimising the specific cardiovascular and psychological mortalities and disorders which have been assessed: cardiovascular, stroke, types of depression, and homicides.
The desirable level, judged by lowest incidences of these problems, is the equivalent of Japan or Iceland, but adjusted for the national intake of linoleic acid. As a valuable standard Hibbeln chose Japan’s omega3 proportion of highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA), that of 60%.
We must then allow for the adverse effects of each nation’s consumption of omega6s, and increase their omega3 RDA accordingly. The table of nations’ omega3 intakes and other HUFA intakes tells us the factor by which to increase the RDA to attain the target of 60%. We find that to balance out the huge national variations in linoleic intake leads to 10-fold national variations in requirements for omega3.
Limiting our intakes of linoleic acid would also lower our requirements of omega3s and reduce our excessive demands on threatened fish stocks.
Fish, health and peace.
Finally, considering the colossal benefits of fish-rich diets, Joe Hibbeln expressed the view that surely some observant sages in history must have spotted the connection before.
Sure enough there was the evidence all over. There seems to be no culture, no religion without the association of fish and health and peace. So universal is this symbolic use that the symbol itself, as if by Pavlovian reaction alone, seems to convey a sense of health and calm.
GHB: Our changing diet; deficits and disorders – Mineral depletion - mineral deficiencies - and their fall out
David Thomas DC: nutritionist and chiropractor – began with a powerful expression of amazement that our nation could have overlooked so much nutritional evidence in relation to health for so long, only to be brought up short by a young celebrity chef of integrity and passion, Jamie Oliver. Dr. Thomas presented lengthy research lists specifically relating diseases to mineral deficits. For brevity I give this in the form of a single table, but we hope to publish the complete lists in Nutrition and Health.
The importance of minerals
Physiologically it would be very difficult to underestimate the importance of minerals and trace elements. They often act as the catalyst for the other nutrients the body uses to develop and maintain good health.
Magnesium for instance is known to be required to be present in the metabolic pathway of 300 enzyme reactions whilst zinc is required in 200 enzyme reactions. The deterioration in the mineral content of the 64 foods that could be traced over the 51-year period between 1940 and 1991, therefore, should be considered as alarming.
Not only are these foods made from raw materials that contain between 16% and 76% less of essential minerals than 60 years ago, but they often also contain residues of herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.
Dr. Stephen Davis had described our predisposition as comprising psychological, genetic and nutritional. Any changes in environment required our adaptation, in which we either succeeded or reached a condition subject to any number of diseases with their various symptoms. Then come treatments for disease, becoming more and more drastic as it progresses. So we need to look for the fundamental causes of disease in our environment food production methods and tackle these, rather than let disease happen and then hunt for the magic bullet. Understand that we are part of the environment, not separate from it. Recently a Russian scientist had repeated the discovery of McCarrison in the 1930s that poor food is the quickest way to animal ill health.
GHB: The significance of genomic imprinting for brain development and
Professor Barry Keverne FRS, FMedSci – Behavioural Neuroscience, King's College, Cambridge, described how genetic imprinting provides for outstanding co-adaptation of mother and foetus, for maternal provision and foetal use of resources. On the other hand it is open to genetic transmission of clinical disorders, for instance Prada-Willli syndrome leading to obesity, and Angelman’s syndrome with unusual behaviour. Genetic imprinting only evolved in mammals and the placenta is deeply involved.
Imprinting also explains the much greater variety of species from such a small percentage difference in genes, and the small number of human genes that so surprised scientists of the Human Genome Project.
There are certain genes in mammals that are only expressed if inherited from one parent rather than from the other. More often the paternal gene – allele – is expressed which means that the maternal allele is silenced, usually by methylation, bonding of a CH3 group.
Genomic imprinting, distinct from epigenesis, occurs in germ-line cells, with transgenerational effect. Epigenesis, in somatic cells, genetically affects the individual only, though if it causes a change of behaviour – better mothering say – that can affect the next generation culturally. Imprinting is reversible and there is no change in the gene sequence, unlike mutation.
Genomic imprinting acts primarily through key regulatory genes that in turn have a cascade effect through other genes. Possible effects vary widely, for instance the mother’s food intake and weight gain; maternal fat and blood glucose; letdown of milk and post-natal pup growth. Other affects include her maternal behaviour, nest-building, and placental hormones, placental blood flow and nutrient transfer, foetal growth, and early weaning and puberty onset.
In these ways the placenta enables the foetus to regulate its own destiny, mainly by genomic co-adaptation affecting hormonal action on receptors in the maternal hypothalamus. The two genomes, infant and maternal, are co-
adaptive for infant well-being and reproductive success. Offspring that have extracted “good” maternal nurturing will be genetically predisposed towards good mothering.
Early foetal mortality helps selection for fitness. Through imprinting, a gene contributing to fitness is established in the population more quickly, especially when paternally expressed.
Although imprinting affects hormonal activity and nutrient metabolism, there is no evidence that hormones or nutrients affect genomic imprinting. Hormones and nutrients can, particularly in early life, epigenetically affect the individual’s future life for better or for worse, and seriously contribute to obesity.
GHB: 'Brainfoods': Modulating brain structure and function.
Dr. Jimmy Bell PhD: MRI Unit, MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College London, and his team use MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to assess the real impact of foods on brain function. MRI scanners non-invasively allow researchers to create three-dimensional comparative images.
MRI scanning of pre-term babies has shown that exposure to an ex utero environment prematurely alters brain development. Pre-term brains are smaller, with significantly fewer and less ‘tortuous’ blood vessels – a pattern that may persist into adulthood. The movement of water within the neurons of pre-term babies is also noticeably different from full term.
MRI scanning is also allowing the team to look directly at the activation of the hunger and satiety neurons in the brain. They have found that the activation patterns in very young and very old brains are quite different. The activation pattern was completely different for an omega3 and omega6 fat. An old brain, supplemented with omega3 fats, worked as well as a young brain.
Omega3s also increased the effectiveness of the blood-brain barrier.
GHB: The effects of maternal anxiety or stress during pregnancy on the foetus and the long term development of the child.
Professor Vivette Glover, Perinatal Psychobiology, Imperial College London, presented the increasing evidence from independent large prospective studies that maternal stress/anxiety during pregnancy can affect foetal brain development, with adverse effects on the child’s emotional, behavioural and cognitive development.
We talk about foetal programming and predictive adaptive response. Environmental influences on the mother are preparing the child in her womb for the external environment it is likely to inhabit. This is different from the genetic changes and mutations that will be effective for thousands of generations. Their seriousness is now well enough established to feature in an American Child Health strategic plan 2005-10.
Animal studies have pointed to factors to observe in humans. Antenatal maternal stress in rats leads to anxiety in the offspring. It can alter laterality – right-handedness etc. – sexuality, and disrupt the circadian rhythm including sleep pattern, a prolonged corticosteroid influence. Prenatal stress reduces the animal’s later negative feedback, the calming effect of cortisol, by reducing the cortisol receptors in the hippocampus.
In monkeys likewise, maternal prenatal stress leaves the offspring with a lower attention span and more anxiety. There are greater cortisol responses, but imaging reveals more dopamine receptors to be affected by that stress neurotransmitter. So there is objective evidence of mammalian prenatal stress effects on offspring.
Dr. Glover’s human research has mainly related to the ALSPAC program. In a group of anxious mothers, a simple arithmetic exercise met with a rise in foetal heart-beat, showing that maternal stress clearly affects the foetus. The strongest effects discerned of maternal prenatal stress on the offspring were relationship problems, particularly emotional cruelty and separation; others included alcohol and smoking. The strength of effect was stronger from stress at 32 weeks prenatally than 18 weeks, and resulted in double the levels of the offspring’s hyperactivity, and emotional and conduct disorders. This reflected children’s high waking level of cortisol.
Studies show that stress acts on the hypothalamus to produce corticotrophin releasing hormone, which in turn acts on the pituitary gland to produce adreno-corticotrophic hormone. This stimulates the adrenal gland to secrete adrenaline, which both stirs the system to deal with emergency, and also releases cortisol for negative feedback to the hippocampus to stabilise the system. Yet both maternal and foetal cortisol are a positive stimulus on placental CRH.
These results suggest the importance of detecting and treating affective disorder during pregnancy, both for the direct benefit to the mother herself, and particularly to help reduce later development of behavioural and other problems in children.
GHB: The Two Cornerstones in the Psychobiological Development of Mankind: The increase in frequency of pregnancies during the neolithic revolution and ‘physiological prematurity’
Dr. Ludwig Janus MD: ISPPM President 1995-2005, Heidelberg – described the human being as a product of both biological and psychological factors, the two being interconnected. During the Neolithic revolution, stock-farming and agriculture led to protein-enriched nutrition significantly increasing the rate of pregnancy. Women could become pregnant annually, rather than every 4 years or so as before. But this demanded too much of the mother for the bonding needs of her children, and contributed in early high cultures to increased dependency and aggressiveness.
Also the infant’s large human brain, within with the mother’s upright posture, required babies to be born some 12 months earlier than the equivalent of other mammals (allowing for weight). This so-called ‘physiological prematurity’, leaving babies so helpless and vulnerable, led to the unique development of appeals – by smiles, gestures, voice exchanges and eye-
contact – to obtain from mothers and fathers that vital substitute for this early birth: exceptional extended care. Perhaps from this primal social acquirement comes our creation of protective spaces, characteristic of our cultures – institutions, buildings, and social spaces. Dr. Janus contemplated the psycho-
social implications of shorter pregnancy intervals and ‘psycho-physiological prematurity’.
GHB: A psycho-soma integration perspective in psychotherapy with parents and infants.
Dr. Antonella Sansone: ISPPM, Psychologist, Infant Massage Teacher, Author – described how nutrition and emotional nourishment are both essential to the brain’s healthy development. She emphasised the link between nutrition and emotional environment of the newborn in her first book (Sansone 2004).
Antonella illustrated with Andrea’s story how her symptom of mastitis brought to light and healed a psychosomatic disruption in the mother. A mother’s milk flows in response to a variety of elements: sight, smell and feeling; thinking of the baby; a ‘quiet yet live holding’, and ‘rocking’ (Winnicott 1960).
Recognising this, Antonella told Andrea, ‘Don’t struggle to give her your milk. Your love, holding, and touching are even more important, and irreplaceable for her development’. For the first time I saw Andrea smiling at Rosy. Then she picked her up and Rosy gazed at her mother and vocalized for the first time. Congruent holding and communication sustain psycho-soma integrity, and that is the root of the child’s nutritional behaviour.
A lack of psycho-soma integration, this divorce between psyche and soma evident in Andrea, tends to be an intergenerational model, presenting as symptoms such as her mastitis, her tightened gestures while breastfeeding, her remarkably fast speech and sharp tone, and her inability to verbalise her feelings and internal world.
Antonella often drew attention to Andrea’s way of speaking fast while avoiding eye contact. Her language had a ‘faraway’ quality and she didn’t turn her face to her baby while talking. Understanding that studies show how holding, touching, and cuddling are fundamental to the child’s sense of security and healthy development, led Andrea to a turning point. For the first time, there was silence. Her face suddenly turned pale and her voice slow and trembling.
“My mother never stayed at home and never had time to hug or cuddle me”, Andrea said. “My father was an alcoholic, who liked going out with different women. He used to say that I was not a good daughter.”
But when Andrea’s painful memories, unattended for all those years, came to light, her words for the first time did not sound ‘far away’ from her body feelings. The long pause of silence and the downward direction of her eyes gave the impression that she was reliving her earlier experiences.
Baby massage offers a context for restoring and keeping alive that sense of being held and at ease in the body. It also constitutes a safe place where memories and feelings, locked in the body since infancy, can be re-
experienced and re-evaluated. ‘Andrea could perceive me as a mother who could enjoy playing with infants and take in this style of mother-daughter relationship’.
Playfulness, touch and infant massage can restore psycho-somatic integrity in both mother and baby. Nutritionists need to acknowledge the emotional aspect of nutritional problems and read the psychosomatic symptoms of altered eating behaviour.
GHB: 'New Parenting’, psychotherapy, prenatal & perinatal care.
Terence Dowling: Depth Psychosomatologist, Heidelberg, ISPPM.
The health of future generations, both physical and psychological, depends upon good parental and early environment, free particularly from malnutrition, toxins and undue stress. Education about these negative influences is urgent, especially to encourage childbearing women in a healthy diet and lifestyle. The detrimental effects of cigarette smoking in pregnancy have been known since the 1970s, yet in Germany, for example, 60% of all children are conceived, carried, and born into a household where at least one adult smokes. Even if the father desists from smoking at home, the nicotine in his body tissues is transmitted to anyone near him, for example his wife when they sleep near each other. More than one glass of beer, wine or spirits per week during the pregnancy can be detected at birth.
Alcohol early in the pregnancy – just when many mothers are unaware they are pregnant – can produce significant physical malformation, especially in the face. Prenatal exposure to alcohol has significant effects on the intelligence and behaviour of the child. Many of these children are very restless. Even slight amounts of poisoning during the pregnancy are related to the development of a negative self-image and the compensatory behaviour of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in later life.
The Prenatal Deprivation and Poisoning Syndromes have not only been related to heart disease and eating disorders in the area of general health but also in the area of psychological health to Borderline Personality Disorder. Undue stress of any kind during pregnancy leads to problems for the developing child.
Attention deficit disorders – Drugs or nutrition?
Toshiko Matsudaira: Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London – is currently setting up a study on Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD), which includes impulsivity and poor coordination, leading to behaviour problems and conduct disorders. 3-10% of children suffer ADHD, 5% of school-age children. The male to female ratio is 4:1. 70-80% of children with ADHD continue as adolescents to have social, academic, and emotional difficulties, and some lifelong.
Genetic factors are still unknown. They are the subject of: twin studies; molecular genetic research; adoption studies; and family studies. Indications are that ADHD is 70% hereditary. Environmental factors include child abuse. Treatment is multimodal: medication; parent training; cognitive/behavioral approach; also social skills training including anger management. Nutritional supplements are being tried including carnitine (an amino acid responsible for transport of fatty acids into a cell's mitochondria); zinc; iron; vitamin E; omega3 fatty acids etc.
Stimulants have been used since the 1950s, particularly Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), with some 75% response rate. Recently, non-stimulant medication – Atomoxetine or Strattera (atmoxetine hydrochloride), whose structure is similar to an antidepressant, has been used. But medicines have the problem of possible side effects such as growth retardation; appetite loss; headache; stomach ache; insomnia; and in patients with a history of seizures they can lower the seizure threshold. Their use can be followed by addiction or suicide (Atomoxetine for instance). Because of short or long term side effects, ADHD patients often choose alternative treatment such as supplementation.
The way omega3s benefit ADHD is uncertain. They may be important in remodelling dendrites and synapses, and/or sustaining several features: blood brain barrier, neuronal membrane, neurotransmitter channel, receptors and ion channels.
Innis in 1994 and in 2003 found that omega-3 deficient rats showed hyperactivity. Burgess in 2000 showed that the reason for ADHD cases’ lower levels of omega-3 was not lower intake or absorption. Whether it could be enhanced metabolism or inefficient conversion of EFAs to LCPUFAs might be determined by carbon-dated traces or by scans.
Boys need more omega3s than girls, and this may be connected with boys’ prevalence of ADHD. Aggression increased in rats deprived of DHA but normalized as DHA was restored.
Richardson5 found PUFA were effective for cognitive problems and behaviour problems in ADHD/dyslexia. Stevens (2003) found them effective for oppositional defiant disorder, whereas EPA specifically was helpful with disruptive behaviour.
DHA is important during gestation and early infancy, particularly for neurodevelopment. It may improve aggression. EPA is crucial throughout life, particularly for optimum cognitive function.
In the Durham Trial5, 120 school children aged 6-12yrs with developmental coordination disorder, were tested with omega3s with 6s. After 3 months without, they had 3 months on the EPA. ADHD scores on co-ordination and short-term memory were improved when taking fatty acids. However, this trial was not only for ADHD-diagnosed children, nor did it involve EPA alone. Most needed now are: test of pure EPA vs. pure DHA; metabolic study; non-
invasive methods to find essential fatty acid deficiencies; brain function assessment; genetic; gender difference; and EFA deficiency questionnaires.
There have been several attempts to see if omega 3 fatty acids will benefit and some like the Durham school trials in the UK have given promising results.
In discussion Joe Hibbeln said that the Seychelles study found a correlation between hyperactivity generally with mothers deficient in omega 3s during pregnancy, and that the ALSPAC study indicated some correlation.
Gillian West of the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group (HACSG) said they had found for decades that, as well as omega3s, the omega6 gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) had been most beneficial: despite the general excess of omega6 observed. This was because, in contrast to the evening primrose oil they use, dietary GLA was often not easily assailable. Also many of these mothers had previously received evening primrose oil for pre-menstrual tension, indicating they had a pre-existing EFA deficiency. Reasons for poor conversion included: deficiencies in zinc, chromium, magnesium and B vitamins; toxins; disease; and ageing. HACSG had had enormous success, turning round thousands if not millions of ADHD subjects. There were calls for specific studies on GLA in ADHD.
Another puzzle raised was the effect of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The suggestion was that whereas DHA may primarily be benefiting brain structure directly, EPA may primarily be benefiting blood-vessel structure and so blood-
flow to the brain.
To the question of how fully the Japanese diet appears to minimise ADHD, Matsudaira replied that it is hard to say, since the Japanese would be reluctant for knowledge of such a disorder to reach awareness beyond the home.
GHB: Priorities in Research Funding
Dr. Richard Ashcroft: reader in biomedical ethics at Imperial College – examined the criteria (scientific or social welfare) on which prospective research is assessed.
• Is the proposal scientifically interesting/ challenging/unresolved for a long time?
• Is it the most likely to advance understanding in the field?
• Is it the easiest to solve?
• It is a team with the best track record – or the most potential?
Or should the criteria be quite different?
• The solution of which problem would improve social welfare most?
• Should research focus on the poorest in society or on future social welfare?
• No matter how desirable, will scientists be able to provide an answer no matter how much funding is given? (Richard Nixon enabled billions of dollars for cancer research in the 1970s on the understanding that science would have ‘solved’ cancer in 10 years.)
Dr. Ashcroft suggested a combination of both approaches but... transparent to public scrutiny.
GHB:Into the future; avoiding the cost of folly.
Jack Winkler: Director of Food Health Research, London – then reviewed some of the key points that speakers had made, asking “and where now?” He suggested the figure of €386 billion was half the real cost of mental ill-health since it excluded the cost of maintaining 10% of the working population on incapacity benefit, a large proportion of whom suffer from mental ill-health.
African politicians recognise that malnourished women leads to children’s malnourished brains which leads to failure to develop economically – a lesson for the developed world. It is vital to bring in the agronomists and economists to have an impact on governments.
He robustly challenged all present asking what action each of us was going to take reduce these dire effects on the human race? Scientists, medical practitioners, researchers needed to ally with other groups – economists, geneticists, agriculturalists – and infiltrate the corridors of power! Sustain was wanting to accept our greater knowledge of this field and they can coordinate the pressure.
Ian Pike of the fishing industry explained their recycling of unsaleable fish into high-standard farmed fish rich in omega3s, but asked Joe Hibbeln whether we could protect omega6/3 ratio which when more than 6:1 prevented chain elongation. Could soy and other omega6 foods be restricted to protect health and economise on fish stocks? Hibbeln replied that research is needed to prove its safe effectiveness.
Professor Keverne then expressed concern that too much was being attributed to nutrition before the neocortex was even developed, which did not begin till the age of three. And the brain then awaited a later stage of remodelling between 17 and 20 years, when the prefrontal cortex and superior temporal cortex develop power of control over the hypothalamus and pituitary, regions affecting emotions and the body. Whereas 100 years ago 17-20 was the age of puberty, today puberty is around 10-14, so that people are now bearing children before the brain has matured to handle them. In girls reaching puberty at 9, the most obvious sign is fat; leptin, the hormone of reproduction is also the hormone of appetite and fat. So for improvements to the brain, he recommended, we really need to focus on control of obesity.
Responding to comments on the ‘novelty’ of the evidence of mental health’s dependency on omega6/3 balance, and the trivialisation of the significant evidence of maternal/foetal/infant nutrition on brain development, Dr. Michael Crawford, Director of the Institute of Brain Chemistry, described how the extensive evidence of powerful effects of prenatal nutrition on the brain from two powerful studies in 1973 led to combined World Health Organisation and Food & Agriculture Organisation (WHO-FAO) recommendations on increasing the omega6/3 ratio but, being against current industrial policy, these were never acted on. These studies were animal trials and pathology, then corroborated by human studies. Decades have been wasted and the problem has got hugely worse. Crawford quoted a number of the many studies in evidence.
Would they yet bring governments to act now?
The suggestion that late development of the neocortex meant that prenatal nutrition could not affect later performance and behaviour conflicts with all this evidence. Moreover, much of an individual’s performance and behaviour relates to the brainstem and limbic system which develop prenatally, and even if only the barest rudiments of the neocortex are laid down so early, such impairments are often not redeemable later.
Dr. Glover asked about vegetarian mothers, believing that despite their large fish consumption, Japan had a high incidence of mental health disorder. This does not tally with Joe Hibbeln’s figures, replied Crawford, and India had 70% of the world’s blindness, 50% low birthweight and much mental retardation.
Concluding, Ludwig Janus and Michael Crawford agreed that the resistance of society to adopting the logical response to the problem reflected the neurotic’s aversion to treatment, and called for collaboration to tackle the problems with specifically designed projects. Professor Crawford thanked everyone for their contributions for such a successful day.
1. Czeizel A (1995) Folic Acid. Vitamins in pregnancy and infancy. Annales Nestle 53, 61-68.
2. Bradley SG & Bennett N (1995) Preparation for Pregnancy. Scotland: Argyll.
3. Peter C, Bennett W & Brostoff J (1997)The Health of Criminals Related to Behaviour, Food, Allergy and Nutrition: A Controlled Study of 100 Persistent Young Offenders. Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine 7(4): 359-
4. Gesch CB, Hammond SM, Hampson SE, Eves A & Crowder MJ (2002) Influence of supplementary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids on the antisocial behaviour of young adult prisoners. The British Journal of Psychiatry 181: 22-28.
5. Richardson AJ, Montgomery P (2005) The Oxford-Durham study: a randomized, controlled trial of dietary supplementation with fatty acids in children with developmental coordination disorder. Paediatrics 115(5):1360-6.
UK Government sets out goals for a sustainable food industry. Efforts condemned as shallow by the McCarrison Society.
Mrs Beckett said: "As an industry the food sector has a significant role to play in achieving a sustainable future for this country”. Nothing about achieving sustainable health and nutrition! The Government claims a higher GDP and better economy, yet the inequality of health is worse than in 1973 when the incidence of low birthweight was 6.6%. According to the 2005 UNICEF report, it is now 8%.
Low birthweight is the strongest, single predictor of cerebral palsy, cognitive and or behavioural disorders at school age, chronic ill health and subsequent risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke in adults. Low birthweight breeds poverty in a cycle of deprivation. Poverty breeds anti-social behaviour and crime. This is unacceptable in one of the richest countries in the world. Dr. Michael A. Crawford, PhD, CBiol, FIBiol, FRCPath Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition.
Chef Jamie Oliver has slated the Government’s latest efforts to improve school meals (9 May 2006).
Speaking at the Bafta awards, the celebrity chef criticised the revolving door at the Department for Education and Skills (DfES).
According to a report in the Mirror, Oliver said: “The day after I met Charles Clarke [former Education Secretary] he got moved on. Then I got to know Ruth Kelly and she’s moved on. There’s always the same bloody excuse, which is ‘I’ve just started’.” Oliver added: “They promised me the extra £280m for school dinners. Now my job is to make sure the money is well spent and they give enough.”
His comments come after his recent call to treble the amount given to schools. At a school meals conference in March the campaigning chef also urged the Government to establish a 10-15 year plan to improve school food. A DfES spokesman said: “This year we have paid £60m to schools and local education authorities to help deliver healthier meals. We will not take our foot off the accelerator.” Jamie’s School Dinners picked up the Bafta for best factual programme at the awards.
by Tom Bill.
Mind What You Eat
Why are the effects of food on our mental health not taken more seriously?
Courtney Van de Weyer discovers some frustrating obstacles.
Several years ago, I worked for both a pharmaceutical industry watchdog and a mental health law firm. The watchdog campaigned for public recognition of withdrawal problems with a widely prescribed antidepressant. Following a well-rehearsed and influential script of the pharmaceutical industry, the manufacturer consistently denied any problem.
At the law firm, I assisted clients who had been sectioned. Once on the ward, they were always placed on psychotropic medication – many were helped, but some, unfortunately, were not. One of our clients was such a person – despite being prescribed different types and combinations of drugs, her life had been blighted by years of depression. She asked us to help look into other treatments.
Through this I became aware of the evidence linking food and mental health and, consequently, began working for Sustain. Now that I’ve been able to research the area in depth, I am now firmly convinced that there is a link between what we eat and what we feel.
Moreover, I am convinced that the way in which food is now grown, processed and marketed is contributing to the indisputable rise we are seeing in mental health problems globally (and no, it is not the only factor – but it’s a significant one). Many of the psychotropic drugs prescribed are – in essence – cleaning up the mess caused by the same food system that is contributing to obesity and other food-related ill health.
Despite hundreds of studies, as well as thousands of anecdotes, doubts about the connection are rife amongst policy-makers and health professionals. To address these, we recently published a report that detailed the published evidence. No messy anecdotes were included – just peer-
reviewed research, everything from epidemiology to randomised controlled trials.
Toting these reports round to policy-makers led to one phrase ringing in our ears: “interesting, but needs more research”. But given that diet related poor physical health is more prevalent in mental health patients, it is absurd (if not negligent) not to put greater effort into improving their diets. And if there happened to be an improvement in mental health – well, wouldn’t that just be a bonus?
Yes, it is true that there are
still a number of unanswered questions. More research is definitely necessary. But how? Talking with researchers in this area, who continually apply for, and are continually refused funding [emphasis added], it is obvious that there are real problems in obtaining support for research on diet and mental health.
Reasons might include the ignorance of some peer reviewers; often medical professionals who know little about dietary health. There is also the problem of the diet gurus – slickly marketed ‘experts’ spouting questionable evidence can tar the entire area as ‘alternative’ and therefore suspect in the eyes of policy-makers.
But, coming a full circle, there is also the little matter of drugs. Many of the professionals reviewing research applications, along with the funders, are now directly tied to the pharmaceutical industry. Unsurprisingly this can lead to zero interest in approving funding for any research not linked to drug treatment. Given the anonymity of peer reviewers, there is no opportunity to spot conflicts of interest.
Furthermore, government budget concerns mean that research into mental health treatment is increasingly being left to industry. One confidential document I have seen advocates this explicitly. The result is that non-
pharmaceutical treatments are receiving little or no funding.
So, in spite of the wealth of evidence supporting dietary intervention, we’re on the drugs indefinitely until the calls for ‘more research’ are satisfied. And until then, the cost of mental health problems will not be included in the costs of diet-related poor health.
My question is this – what exactly, will satisfy? There are still research trials testing the role of diet in heart disease – yet what doctor does not prescribe dietary improvements to heart patients? The same, at the very least, should be done for those with mental health problems.
Heck, it might even make the drugs work better.
Courtney Van de Weyer runs the Food and Mental Health Project at Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming.
Read Sustain’s new report – Changing diets, changing minds: how food affects mental well being and behaviour – www.sustainweb.org/mhealth_index.asp
Our thanks to Courtney Van de Weyer, Sustain and to the Food Ethics Council for permission to reprint this excellent article www.foodethicscouncil.org
McCarrison meeting with Sustain, Friday 5th May 2006
At the offices of Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming, 94 White Lion Street, London N1 9PF
Present: Courtney Van de Weyer, Jeanette Crossland, Michael Crawford, Kate Start.
The meeting was to discuss how Sustain and the McCarrison Society could best work together. There are a number of issues that Sustain are working on. These include the children’s food bill. Following the recommendations from the prior McCarrison Society Committee meeting on the recent e-mail exchange concerning the need for more research, there was a discussion about the merits of more research versus advocacy. It was agreed by Sustain that priority should be given to advocacy.
One area that has been ignored in the UK is the nutritional status of mothers, both pre-conceptually and whilst the foetus is in utero. Of particular concern are the numbers of ‘small-for-dates’ babies born. All too often this is related to poor nutritional status, of both the father, but particularly the mother. In France mothers are provided financial incentives to maintain good health and nutritional status. In the UK low birthweight increased from 6.6% in 1953 (England), 6.6% in 1973 (UK) to 7.6% in 2002 and to 8% in 2005 (UNICEF - United Nations Children's Fund.). UK therefore has by far the worst record for low-birthweight babies in Western Europe - on a par with Rumania and Kazakhstan and worse than Cuba (5.7%).
In the normal population 1 or 2 per thousand live births will result in severe, neuro-developmental disorder such as cerebral palsy. At very preterm deliveries with birth weights below 1.5 Kg, the incidence rises above 200/1000 with an estimated cost of £2 to £4 billion a year. The social costs of the most severe cases of a child requiring 24 hour nursing care, to the parents and carers is incalculable.
According to the results of the EU funded project EPICure (Extremely Preterm Infants - a population based study of survival and health status, www.nottingham.ac.uk/obgyn/EPICure ), babies born preterm and at low birthweight, although apparently healthy at birth and 2 years of age, show significant signs of neurodevelopmental disorders such as behavioural problems, auditory and visual difficulties. Low birthweight is the single most identifiable cause of chronic physical and mental ill health. The scandal of the UK having such an appalling record should be a target for the McCarrison Society and Sustain.
Organisations with which to work could include Birthright and the College of Midwives. Tudor Trust, the Esmee Fairburn Trust and Foresight, the Association for Pre-conceptual Care.
Sustain were interested in reducing intakes of Omega 6 fatty acids, particularly in light of the increased use of soya oil in foodstuffs.
The McCarrison Society are planning to hold a meeting on 23rd October 2006 including representatives from the United Nations talking about the impact of nutrition on brain development.
Perhaps a joint conference with Sustain in the future could be about low birth weight and how best to prevent it with nutrition.
October 23, 2006. Letten Symposium, in conjunction with the McCarrison Society:
EPIGENETICS AND HEALTH
What went wrong with Nutrition?
At the Royal Society.
Conference fee L 160.00
McCarrison Society Members L 40.00
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The McCarrison Society
Professor Michael A. Crawford, PhD, CBiol, FIBiol, FRCPath.
Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition
London Metropolitan University, North London Campus
166-222 Holloway Road
London N7 8DB