Harry Snell’s Pick of the Week:
- The Seventh Row of the periodic table has been completed by Japanese, American and Russian Researchers who have allowed elements 113, 115, 117 and 118 to be seen for long enough for them to be officially recognised as elements.
- A major methane leak from a gas well in California has forced 2200 people to evacuate their homes, and threatens thousands more. The leak has emitted the CO2-equivalent of 7 million cars every day since starting in October, according to the Environmental Defence Fund. SoCalGas, which owns the well, has found the leak’s source, but says it won’t be plugged until March.
- The US government has told NASA to visit Europa in 2022. The latest budget set aside $175 million for a planned fly-by of Jupiter’s glacier moon, but it added a twist: NASA is required to land on the moon, not just fly past. Europa is a promising target in the search for extra-terrestrial life, thanks to its liquid water ocean.
- The US Fish and Wildlife Service decided in December to classify African lions as either “endangered” or “threatened”. The move closes the US market to all trade in lion parts and trophies.
- Russia’s space agency was reborn this week. Currently the only way for astronauts to reach the International Space Station, Roscosmos will become a state-owned corporation. It will aim to compete with companies like SpaceX, which aim to start carrying humans to space in 2017.
- It is thought that early humans about 14,000 years ago in China may have lived alongside much more primitive humans, based on a femur found in a cave along with other bones, which showed signs of a burial ritual as well as those of being burnt and butchered. This makes it seem likely that Homo sapiens cannibalised the more primitive humans, but due to the recent age of this finding it makes it a good candidate for an even more recent hybrid-looking skull and bones found elsewhere, dating back 10,500 years.
In the light of How our Diet has changed over the last Century, How does Nutrition affect the Developing Brain? By Sam Pemberton (Block 4)
Nutrition is a massive part of our life, where we get it from, how we obtain it and how it keeps us healthy or how it may make us un-healthy. To this day, many scientists are trying to understand how what we eat affects us, mentally and physically. We can all agree that organic, non-chemically enhanced food is likely to be healthier. However, organic food comes at a price. This is because producing organically grown food is far more labour intensive and cannot be produced on a large-scale, meaning the demand is increased, causing the price to rise. So, I believe, that what we eat and how it may affect our brain could depend on our socio-economic factors.
Over the past 100 years our diet has changed a lot. A century ago it was normal for people to eat organic, grass-fed produce. Large amounts of meat used to be eaten, due to the fact that you had to eat seasonally. So when there weren’t any fresh vegetables, people had to fill the plate with more meat. There weren’t any fresh fruit and vegetables travelling miles across continents just to satisfy the demand and desire for strawberries in winter1. The United Kingdom, today, is taking part in major food consumption and food wastage. We as a country eat 10% more calories than we need to, to stay healthy. An average man should take in about 2,500kcal and an average women should take in around 2,000kcal2. Another factor which has changed in this country, which affects the brain, is the pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones pumped into the food we consume. If a salmon has had Growth Hormones pumped into it, it will grow twice as fast to the size which is needed to be able to be sold. A chemical which is given to salmon is called Astaxanthin which is a supplement to their normal diet which consists of fish, eels, squid and shrimp. Again, if a cow has added hormones, it will produce 15% more milk and will grow 20% faster than a cow without additional hormones.
A third of what we eat should be fruit and vegetables. Another third should be starchy foods, such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta. The last portion should consist of dairy products, food high in fats and/or sugar and meat, fish and eggs. However we eat a large amount of processed meat, which usually comes from abroad. Fresh fish is a lot more expensive now, causing it to be left off the dinner plate, unless you choose to spend more on food. However, fish is the main source from which we can get Omega 3 into our bodies. We as a nation consume a vast amount of processed foods and drinks which have an extremely high sugar count. Alcohol also plays a part in our daily diet. Men should drink no more than 3-4 units and women should drink no more than 2-3 units per day. The over-consumption of alcohol affects movement, speech, judgment and memory. It is also high in sugar. Our diet has changed a lot and the supermarkets’ demand for produce is enormous. This has resulted in a change in the way we farm and produce food.
As the population rises and our appetite for food increases, British farmers are forced to try and meet this demand. However, farmers are not able to completely provide food for everyone. Less than 60% of the food we eat originates from the UK. This means supermarkets are having to import produce from abroad. Less people are consuming UK grown food because the prices are often higher than the food we import from elsewhere. Another major change is the addition of chemicals, hormones and antibodies which are used in the production of livestock or plants. These chemicals are used to maximise the farmers’ profits and increase their yield of crops and livestock, to provide more food for supermarkets at a competitive price. There is a lot of discussion involving the matter of whether these chemicals which enhance productivity affect physical and mental development in humans.
The brain is an organ which gives out commands to the rest of the body, so it can function. These ‘instructions’ travel across the body in our nervous system. For the brain to function properly it needs to be given the right minerals and vitamins, and in the right balance. Most of the minerals and vitamins can only come from our diet. One of the nutrients the brain needs is complex carbohydrates, which can help with relaxing and sleeping. This is important as the brain needs to relax, so it can function properly when you need it. If the brain is deprived of sleep it can affect childrens’ spelling and grammar at school, especially for the developing brain. Other vital vitamins needed for the developing brain are the Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 and Omega 6 have to come from our diet. Omega 3 is said to improve learning and memory. A survey was done by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with 790 students to find out whether Omega 3 affects learning and memory. The results showed that 396 students who had high Omega 3, had a higher intelligence measurement. However the 394 students with low Omega 3, had a lower intelligence. This shows us that Omega 3 is vital for brain development. Omega 3 is also given to people with ADHD and people who are on the Autism Spectrum and can also help with preventing dementia, bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia. Omega 3 and Omega 6 need to be in a 1:1 ratio, otherwise it can cause the effects of depression, dementia and neurodevelopmental disorders. We mostly don’t have a balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6. Water is very important for a developing brain, as the brain is 80% water, it needs to have a plentiful amount to function properly. In the UK obesity is a big problem with 20% of the population being obese. Obesity is a major risk factor for a variety of diseases, which include some that can affect the brain, such as dementia and stroke.
We know that what we eat definitely affects our brain. So what do all the chemicals in our food do to our brain? Junk food has been known to cause ADHD, Autism and dyslexia. The preservatives in the food can trigger these diseases. The high fat and sugar content in junk food can also make the brain hyper-active. This country has such a high obesity rate because of the high fat and sugar diet we consume. If you do not look after your brain and these diseases do affect you, they could also affect your children and your grandchildren as they can also be passed down the generations. Our Omega 6 mostly comes from snack foods, biscuits, cakes etc. so our ratio is out of balance. Fish is our main source of Omega 3 and because it is much more expensive now in the modern day, people do not eat as much, meaning the intake becomes even more un-balanced. The hormones added to produce can sometimes accelerate puberty in girls. The hormones are eaten along with the food and pass into the brain. This can cause stress in the brain which would normally happen later on in life: it can also cause social stress as well.
The antibiotics which farmers give to their produce, can affect your gut. A study was carried out by UCLA to find out whether antibiotics in milk, which affect the gut can also then lead on to the brain being affected. Scientists have known that the gut responds to messages from the brain and this is why stress can lead on to gastrointestinal symptoms. But now, this investigation shows to us that it can work the other way.
In conclusion, we as a nation use a lot of chemicals in our food, to preserve it, to make it grow quicker and to change its colour. Organic food provides us with another option of what to eat. However it is more expensive and isn’t time efficient. More of us have also have started to eat a high fat and sugar diet because of the ready meals and processed food which are made to save time and money. Organic food doesn’t harm the brain but processed, high in fat and sugar food does. There are many consequences to putting additional chemicals into food, but farmers will continue to add chemicals to keep up with the demanding supermarkets and the even cheaper imported produce. In an ideal world we would eat organic, local produce and a low-fat low-sugar diet. The rate at which scientific knowledge is advancing, we should be able to prevent these diseases for the generations to come, no matter what your socio-economic factors are.
- Ettinger, J (2015) Food Then and Now: how Nutrition has Changed in NaturallySavvy.com
- Small, Dr G (2015) Brain Fitness for a Long and Healthy Life in Newsroom.ucla.edu