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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Children and Fish Oil

The Local Education Authority in Durham England were concerned at the increasing number of children who appeared to be underachieving because of an inability to concentrate and focus on a task for any length of time and sought to find out whether supplementing their diets with omega 3 fatty acids might make a difference.

Dozens of schools and hundreds of children have now taken part in several research trials involving fatty acid supplementation by way of fish oil. These trials, led by Dr. Madeleine Portwood, have now become known as the Durham trials and are receiving significant media attention both in the UK and abroad for the dramatic effects that fish oil appears to have on learning and behaviour in the classroom. So far, studies have been carried out on preschool, primary and secondary school children.

The Oxford Durham Study

The largest of these trials was carried out in 2002 and involved more than 100 primary school children from 12 different schools in the Durham area, all of who had developmental coordination disorder, and some with additional problems related to concentration and learning. This trial, known as the Oxford-Durham Trial, was run in collaboration with the Dyslexia Research trust based in Oxford, and Dr Alex Richardson from Oxford University, who is an expert on fatty acids and the brain.

The children in the trial were given a daily capsule of either fish oil or a placebo and as the trial was double blind, no one knew which child was given what. During the week, the children were administered the supplement by school staff. Each child was given six 500mg capsules a day from Monday to Friday, each capsule containing either fish oil or a placebo. The parents gave the children the capsules at the weekends and assessments were made regularly throughout the trial.

It can take weeks for the effect of fatty acid supplementation to show so the trial was conducted over a six month period with half of the children taking fish oil for the entire 6 months and the other half taking a placebo for the first 3 months and fish oil for the second 3 months.

In the first 3 months, those on the fish oil from the start showed dramatic improvements in reading, spelling and behaviour with the placebo group showing similar improvements when they too started taking the fish oil. In the original fish oil group, in the first 3 months, the average gain for reading was over 9 months and just over 6 months for spelling and they continued to show an improvement beyond the first 3 months. When the placebo group switched to fish oil, they showed a reading gain of over 12 months and over 6 months for spelling after just 3 months on fish oil.

The results of this trial haven’t yet been fully analysed but the early indications are “encouraging” and according to Dr Madeleine Portwood, up to 40% of the children have shown significant improvements.

Preschool Trial

Another Durham trial involved nursery school children between the ages of 18 months and two and half years old, 47 of which completed the trial. After 5 months 91% of those who were rated as having very poor behaviour at the start of the trial had improved, with only 4% rated as still having poor or very poor behaviour.

Similar improvements were seen for concentration levels with 79% rated as having good or very good levels of concentration after 5 months supplementation. Language skills also improved significantly compared to the control groups.

Secondary school study

This study was conducted in 2004 and concentrated on how fatty acids could help secondary school children with symptoms of ADHD; the results were released in March, 2006.

At the beginning of the trial, 94% were rated as having moderate to severe ADHD and the same score for inattention, and 89% as having additional problems with impulsivity. After 3 months, the ratings for ADHD and impulsivity were reduced to 28% with inattention dropping to just 17%.

Conclusion

The results of the Durham Trials appear to validate claims that the brain needs the right kind of fatty acids to develop and function normally. The fish oil used in these trials were high in the Omega 3 fatty acid EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), which is thought to be the fatty acid mostly responsible for efficient functioning of the brain itself.

Fish oil is rapidly gaining recognition for being an effective way of improving not only brain function, but lowering the risk of developing other health problems too, so much so that the UK government is considering the option of giving fish oil to all school children in order to improve nutrition in general.

Vitamin C Antioxidant

You may be interested to learn that this antioxidant also goes by the name of ascorbic acid. Take a look at the ingredients labels on the back on some food products in your kitchen and you’ll probably be surprised to learn how frequently you eat Vitamin C. It’s used as a preservative. Many dried fruits are coated with ascorbic acid powder to keep them from browning during dehydration and it lends that familiar sourness to lemon drops. You can make use of the preservative properties of Vitamin C at home by coating apple slices in lemon juice and drying them in the oven at a low temperature.

Vitamin C is a water soluble antioxidant and it takes free radicals directly to the liver to be flushed from the body. Interestingly Humans are amongst the few mammals that don’t produce their own Vitamin C. The others are monkeys, and guinea pigs.

Also this antioxidant is not stored in the human body. You need to replenish your stores daily. Luckily, there are many sources of Vitamin C in the world. Among them are, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, grape fruit, green peppers, lemons, oranges, potatoes, rose hips, strawberries, tangerines, tomatoes.

A lack of Vitamin C in the body can lead to scurvy, a condition where the gums pull away from the teeth and bleed. You can lose all of your teeth and eventually die. Though this was a problem for many a seafaring sailor in the past, it’s unlikely that you will develop such an extreme deficiency of Vitamin C. The reason scurvy develops is because vitamin C is a necessary part of collagen formation. Without these connective fibers your tissues becomes weak and break easily. Other earlier signs of deficiency are swollen red gums, weakness, weight loss, irritability, and you will notice that wounds do not heal as easily. Though these signs must be diagnosed properly, they are similar to symptoms of Diabetes, Arthritis, and Gingivitis.

The recommended daily value of Vitamin C is sixty milligrams. If you fall below ten milligrams a day you will begin to develop a deficiency. It can take up to six months before signs of Scurvy will be obvious. If you do manage to get Scurvy its easily treatable with a higher dosage of Vitamin C for a couple weeks and then a management diet containing lots of foods rich in the antioxidant. While Vitamin C is essential to your body and helps to maintain your immune system its not recommended that you take high doses unless under stress or during illness. Too much can cause diarrhea and painful urination.

About Carbohydrates

If you eat more carbs than you burn off, the excess is stored as body fat. This is especially true for carbs which are processed starches or simple sugars because they enter the blood stream quickly to give you a rapid rise in energy levels. Unless you need that energy there and then, the carbs will be stored as fat. These types of carbs are best avoided unless you are extremely active and burn them off as you eat or drink them. They can be stored as fat in less than half an hour! Your body uses energy all the time, even to sleep and breathe. You use a much greater amount when you exercise. When you begin your exercise, your body uses the glucose in your blood for fuel. When there is no glucose left, the carbs stored in your liver and muscles is used. If you do more than about forty minutes of cardiovascular exercise – something that gets your heartbeat up such as jogging, elliptical, fast cycling or similar – only then does your body start to burn its stored fat for fuel.

Carbs in a Healthy Diet

For a healthy diet including carbohydrates, you should eat whole fruits rather than just the juices. Whole fruits contain more nutrients. Remember that complex carbs are usually better for you than simple ones, so sweet potatoes or oats can be beneficial. Eat as few simple carbs or processed starches as possible. If you eat bread or pasta, try not to eat more than 2 servings a day. Wholegrain pasta and bread is better for your body than more heavily processed products. A gram of carbohydrate gives you 4 calories. The reason that a lot of athletes prefer to eat complex carbs (whole grains, oats etc) is that they need a low body fat level. Complex carbs are longer molecule chains. They need more digestion to turn them into glucose so that blood sugar levels stay more level without spikes. If they were to eat simple carbs instead, they would get energy spikes, which is insulin overload, causing them to release a fat storing hormone. All carbohydrates have some effect on your body’s insulin production and your blood sugar levels so it is prudent to watch your intake. Carbs for Diabetics

Diabetics have to watch their carb intake because of how carbs react with blood sugar levels. A diabetic has to check their blood sugar (or glucose) levels regularly because they suffer from insulin resistance, meaning that their blood sugar levels can remain dangerously high if not monitored properly. It is possible to cause organ damage over time by regularly eating high levels of glucose so a diabetic should plan their meals well in order to limit the intake of carbs and manage their glucose levels. It is also important to balance your fats, proteins and other macronutrients in order to work out how much glucose is being produced.