Oof. I'm tired. Oldest child has a spiky fever of unknown origin (FUO in the medical speak) and youngest child is nearly two and tiring by default. I get these rather silly emails from babysomethingorother telling me about her 23 month old expected developmental stages. This week's was about her learning to throw things. Well, she's been throwing things with gusto for quite a while, babysomethingorother. She also fingerpaints in yogurt on the refrigerator if I allow it. I guess she's advanced. Must be the pasture butter and salmon. They are both sleeping now and thus, a post.
Well. The lovely Victoria sent me this new paper last week. If you can't be bothered to click, basically it is a PUFA and dementia and depression paper. Dementia is bad, depression is bad. Those with an early form of dementia called mild cognitive impairment who are also depressed are more likely to progress to severe dementia. Is there a common biologic mechanism? (Me: YES OF COURSE. It's called inflammation. Also, crappy brain energetics. Researchers: Let's take a calm and compelling look at the evidence, particularly as regards to the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and the resultant suspected increase in vulnerability to inflammation. Me: Sigh. Yes, let's.)
Okay - so if you look at PUFA O3:O6 in the red blood cell plasma membranes, which is felt to be a marker of the bodily PUFA ratio in general, in general (but not always), studies have shown that a lower Omega 3 DHA is associated with depression (in young and old populations) and worsening dementia. In this study, red blood cell PUFA status was compared between healthy controls and older people with mild cognitive impairment and also with depressive symptoms.
The methods section is tedious but important but we'll skip in my article to the results. 79 volunteers, 50 with mild cognitive impairment and 29 healthy controls. Anyone on an omega 3 supplement was excluded (3 people total - in Australia something like 50% of the pregnant moms were excluded from the omega 3 study because they were already on supplements. I guess the older crowd is not so proactive. )
It's complicated, but basically higher levels of n-6 PUFAs were associated with poorer cognitive performance, as well as lower levels of n-3 DHA and EPA. Similar results were found for "self-reported mental health." Also "Bodily Pain." Many of these were linear relationships - basically the more inflammatory omega 6 you have glopping around in your bod, the more you are likely to be depressed, cognitively impaired, and in Bodily Pain. The researchers go so far as to recommend that older adults have their RBC O3:O6 ratio measured to establish a risk profile for mild cognitive impairment or depression.
I would say - this is an actionable ratio, folks! Can the corn chips and industrial salad dressings! There is some evidence that the omega 6 metabolism pathway is overactive in depressed folks with early dementia. All the more reason not to feed the O6 machine. In the brain, we are supposed to have a crapload of DHA. If we don't have enough DHA, it is replaced with a different looking and different functioning omega -derived AA.
Last year my beloved Texas Longhorns football team played for the national championship. Our tried and true senior quarterback was taken out early in the game in a freak accident, to be replaced by an untried greenhorn. We lost. Our freshman replacement quarterback was well-intentioned but in the wrong place at the wrong time. He just wasn't the same.
"Previous research has shown associations between better mental and physical health and a more varied diet in older age." I'm not exactly sure what that means. I think it means eat some fish already.