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Essential Fatty Acids & Learning Disorders

Essential Fatty Acids & Learning Disorders

Tuesday, April 4th 2006

What are polyunsaturated fatty acids?

Fatty acids can be grouped into a few main categories having distinguishing features. For example, saturated fatty acids tend to be solid at room temperature so we find lots of them in foods like butter, lard and beef tallow. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temperature and are the main constituents of food oils like soybean, corn, sesame, evening primrose and fish. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are often called "good fats" because eating them can improve health.

What are essential fatty acids (EFAs)?

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are further subdivided into two main categories called omega-6 and omega-3. These two families can be created within our bodies starting with parent essential fatty acids (EFAs) through a multi-step process that is very slow in humans. The parent EFAs are called "essential" because our bodies cannot make them and so we must eat them everyday - just like vitamins and minerals. Fatty acids made from these parent EFAs are collectively called long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPs). It is these LCPs, not the parent EFAs that have the most impact on our health.

Are LCPs important for brain function?

Omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and omega-6 arachidonic acid (AA) are the most abundant LCPs in the brain. These LCPs are critical for proper brain, nervous system and eye development and function. Another omega-3 LCP, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), is primarily important for circulation and helps deliver nutrients to the brain. It is also a minor component of the brain and it helps AA transmit messages between nerves. Unfortunately, our modern diets have too little of these vital nutrients because we eat mostly EFA containing vegetable oils instead of LCP rich foods like eggs, organ meats and fish. The British Nutrition Foundation recommends that we eat at least 1g of EPA + DHA per day!

How are LCPs involved in learning disorders?

Population studies show that adults and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia, and children with maladjusted behaviour, autism and hyperactivity have lower than normal body levels of DHA and AA, or they have physical signs of LCP deficiency including dry skin, hair and nails, and frequent thirst and urination. These low levels are more than just a dietary deficiency and likely result from an inability to internally convert dietary EFAs into LCPs.

Can LCP Supplementation help?

Clinical studies published in peer reviewed scientific journals involving more than 200 children confirmed that LCP supplementation is an effective way to relieve some symptoms of learning disorders.

How LCP helps children learn in school

· can remember longer sequences of instruction
· more able to focus on defined tasks
· less likely to be disruptive
· more able to read and understand text and so require less assistance
· writing is physically easier and so they are more likely to do it
· are more creative
· self esteem improves

Efalex supplementation helped:

Results were highly significant because children were already being treated with conventional drugs. Improvements on Efalex were beyond those achieved with drug therapy.

Children with specific learning difficulties

· reduce anxiousness, shyness and hyperactivity
· improve reading skills

Children with ADHD symptoms

· reduce hyperactivity by 73%
· improve attention by 64%, conduct by 69%
· oppositional defiance by 75%

Children with neurodevelopmental disorders

· reduce excitability
· improve memory and concentration
· improve reading ability
· improve co-ordination

Reproduced unabridged from the April - June 2006 issue of Health and Herbal News, with the kind permission of Health and Herbs International Ltd.

Footnote from Ideal Health:

The following products are all useful for brain function :

Brahmi 6000 Plus-Memory
Tebonin EGb761
Enzo Brain Recovery Program
Coromega - Omega 3 fish oil
Hi Strength Liquid Fish Oil
Efalex
Efalex Oil
Ginkgo 9,000+
Age Defence Resveratrol
Reflux-free Salmon Oil

Related health information can be found here:

Cayenne to strengthen the circulation, equalise blood pressure, arrest bleeding & assist with colds
Efamarine for healthy skin, hair and nails
Eye Health
Fish oils, garlic and antioxidants for the prevention & treatment of cardiovascular disease
Ginkgo Biloba
Memory
Poor memory? Cold hands or feet? Get things circulating again with Ginkgo biloba
Smart nutrients for better brain function
Water, the elixir of life

Related articles can be found here:

Bilberry - A Major Antioxidant For the Brain and Eyes
Calm Children at Last
Ginkgo Biloba - Quality Process for World Leader
Gotu Kola Herb "Food for the Brain"
Healthy Eye & Brain Development for Babies
How to Boost Your Brain Power
Iron Helps Women's Brain Power
Nature or Bad Parenting?

If you need help or advice, you are welcome to email our naturopathic team with your health question.

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered. The information is not intended to be comprehensive or to provide medical advice to you. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

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