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Rapid Effects of Omega-3 Fats on Brain Function Seth Roberts University of California, Berkeley.

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Presentation on theme: "Rapid Effects of Omega-3 Fats on Brain Function Seth Roberts University of California, Berkeley."— Presentation transcript:

1 Rapid Effects of Omega-3 Fats on Brain Function Seth Roberts University of California, Berkeley

2 Outline background choosing a dose 2 self-experiments other people, other effects conclusions

3 Chemical Background omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated fats Three versions vary in number of carbons: 18 (ALA), 20 (EPA), 22 (DHA) ALA in plants. EPA & DHA in fish. Humans make EPA & DHA from ALA. Flaxseed oil rich in ALA. Brain 2/3rds fat (not counting water). DHA most abundant fat.

4 Health Effect? 1972 Eskimos much less heart disease than Danes. Much more EPA & DHA in blood. Now: Effect of fish oil on heart disease not entirely clear. Now: Inconsistent effects on mood Now: Several studies correlate fish consumption & better cognition in elderly Now: Consistently improves ADHD

5 How I Got Involved The Shangri-La Diet (SLD) showed how to drink olive oil & lose weight. Many SLD dieters reported better sleep. Due to omega-3? I took flaxseed oil capsules one evening. Next morning my balance was better. Could this be confirmed?

6 Measuring Balance

7 Slow learning, continues for a long time One test/day, to keep learning constant 30 trials/session – the most I could bear Took about 15 minutes Every morning. Before any flaxseed oil that day.

8 What Dose?


10 What Dose? Conclusions 3 T/day flaxseed oil better than 2 T/day 4 T/day about the same as 3 T/day Dose effect inconsistent with placebo effect. (Initial effect also inconsistent.) With other effects of omega-3 the best dose is unclear.

11 Expt 1: flaxseed oil vs olive oil Took 4 T/day flaxseed oil most days (4 T flaxseed oil contains 28 g ALA) For 9 days took 4 T/day olive oil instead

12 Expt 1: balance results

13 Expt 1: memory-scan measure

14 Expt 2: memory-scan measure Each test: 5 blocks of 100 digits each. Took about 4 minutes.

15 Expt 1: memory-scan results

16 Expt 1: arithmetic measure Simple arithmetic problems, randomly- chosen: 5+3, 7-4, 7*8 Answer (type answer, hit return) as quickly as possible. Measure of performance is reaction time. 100 problems/session. Each session took about 2 minutes.

17 Expt 1: arithmetic results

18 Expt 1: digit-span measure Typical digit span task. See digits 1/sec in center of screen. 3 sec pause. Test: recall all digits in correct order. Adaptive staircase: number of digits increases after correct answer, decreases after incorrect answer. About 15 trials/session. Takes about 8 minutes.

19 Expt 1: digit span results

20 Expt 2: flaxseed oil vs. nothing Took 4 T/day flaxseed oil most of expt. For 12 days, stopped taking flaxseed oil

21 Expt 2: balance results

22 Expt 2: memory-scan results

23 Expt 2: arithmetic results

24 Expt 2: digit-span results

25 Summary of t values Experiment Measurevs. olive oilvs. nothing balance>57 memory scan88 arithmetic17 digit span22

26 Other People Tim Lundeen, software developer, Bay Area. Simple arithmetic. Sander Van de Cruz, graduate student, Copenhagen University. Iconic memory task. My mom. Balance test.

27 Tim Lundeen

28 Sander Van De Cruys

29 My Mom

30 Other Effects Gums better (less inflammation) Sports injuries better (less pain & swelling)

31 Dental Health Me. Dentist noticed gums not inflamed. Never before like this. Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution. Gum surgery cancelled. Three other people.

32 Dental Health: Tyler Cowen January 2007. Gum specialist: “You’ll need surgery either right now, or within a few months. We cut open the gum, clean out the inflammation, and sew your mouth right back up. Only sometimes do we have to eliminate the tooth.” July 2007. Gum surgeon: “We can cancel this morning’s surgery, it seems OK for now.”

33 Sports Injuries Starting taking flaxseed oil (2 T/day) because of Cowen story. Gums stopped bleeding. “Full contact fighting leads to all kinds of sprains, strains, dislocations, etc. Ever since I started taking it --in caplets, equivalent of 2 tablespoons a day--I have noticed a big reduction in the number of small injuries, and a reduction in recovery time for those injuries.”

34 Sports Injuries (cont.) “I used to have to take four Advil every day before I went to class because I was so sore from the previous days. Now I don't take any--and I haven't changed anything other than the flaxseed tablets.” Stopped taking flaxseed oil. In about 10 days, soreness and bleeding gums returned.

35 Placebo Effect? Placebos never show a dose effect. This does (2 vs 3 T/day). Placebos never have unexpected effects. This does (dental & sports injury effects).

36 Conclusions: Substance Flaxseed oil produces rapid improvement in cognitive functions and balance. Improvement disappears slowly. Omega-3 the crucial ingredient Best dose around 3 Tablespoons/day (= 350 calories). Health benefits clear with 2 T/day.

37 Conclusions: Method Self-experimentation allowed fast, flexible study of accidental effect. Long ingestion  better digestion. Got source (flaxseed oil) & dose right. Benefits much clearer than before. Blogging caused others to try. Methods of cognitive psychology can improve health. Optimize brain  optimize body.

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