Every Mom wants her child to be BIG and STRONG. And SMART.
When it comes to brains, human brains are designed to be BIG. But, for a brain to grow BIG, it needs an adequate supply of raw materials. The chief material from which the human brain is constructed is fat, specifically, omega-3 fatty acids.
Does the availability of these raw materials impact intelligence ?
This was the question a group of researchers from the University of California asked.
The raw material supply
To ascertain the availability of raw materials, the team reviewed published data on the fatty acid profiles of breast milk of women from several different countries.
The reason they chose to evaluate breast milk was because
- the fatty acid composition of breast milk, reflects the diet Mom’s in that country follow
- and the diet of Moms, reflects the current diet of their kids, PLUS the diet they were exposed to during their development, both in the womb and during breast feeding.
They were able to assemble data on the omega-3 to omega-6 ratios in breast milk, for 28 different countries.
Creating a smart map
Next the researchers created a global map of “smartness”.
They used the performance of kids in the PISA test, in 2009 and 2012, as their measure of smartness. The PISA test, stands for Programme for International Student Assessment, it is a standardized testing system which evaluates the maths, science and reading ability of a sample of children from different countries.
Children from 58 countries have taken the PISA test.
When the team analysed the results, they discovered….
Smartness was not about money
Instead it was about the omegas.
The team found the more omega-3, specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the nation’s Moms – the smarter the nation. At the same time, the more omega-6, specifically linoleic acid, in the nation’s Moms, the worse they performed in the standardized test.
The omega effect could not account for all the observed differences between nations. But, the amount of omega-3, was a better predicator of test performance, than the both the nation’s income and the amount of money spent on each child’s education.
Only omega-3 is brain food
So eating fish, nuts and seeds powers up kid’s brains. And eating, vegetable oils, such as corn and soyabean oil, switches them off.
The standard western diet, is low in omega-3 fats and high in omega-6 fats.
Clearly, a standard western diet, is not a recipe for academic success. So……………… what should you do ?
Breastfeeding is step 1
Breast is definitely best. But, the quality of the breast milk is also important.
And what a Mom eats, impact the quality of the breast milk she produces.
So any women, in the midst of the brain building process needs to make sure, she is getting lots of omega-3, while at the same time, minimizing her intake of omega-6 fatty acid.
NB. If you supplement, make sure your supplement only contains omega-3, products with both, provide little to no value.
Women eating lots of fish during pregnancy, may pick up more mercury, but their kids are not at a higher risk of behavioural problems.
When junior is being introduced to solids, fish pate is probably not on the menu, but it should be, because going gaga for fish brings life long heatlh benefits.
Want to think better ? Book smarts can come by hitting the books, but getting hit in the head by a fish, at least once a week, also works.