A few weeks ago, I was listening to this podcast on brain science from Australian radio, and the topic was omega 3 fatty acids and their affect on the brain. I tell you this for several reasons.
First, the opening sentence of this post makes me seem quite a bit cooler than I actually am. Look at all the information I crammed into it. I mentioned podcasting, so I must have an iPod. How cool is that? Then I drop a mention of Australian radio into the mix. And I also mention brain science. So in a short sentence, I’ve conveyed the idea that I am a wealthy, internationally savvy, and very smart. Now all of that may not actually be true, especially the “smart” part. I’ll explain.
On my snotty Australian podcast, some scientist was explaining research done with omega 3 fatty acids. The scientist said the brain is made up mostly of water and these acids. Then she said we can’t make these acids on our own, but must get them from our diets, and the only place to find them is in fish.
Then she pulled out some charts and graphs (I’m assuming she did, it was radio, after all) showing how people who live in places where a lot of fish is eaten (Iceland, Norway, those sort of places) have much lower rates of depression and dementia and ADD. Later, she discussed experiments where researchers gave omega 3 fatty acids to kids with ADD to see if it helped.
Apparently, when you take omega 3 fatty acids, your brain thinks you’ve eaten a ton of fish. It concludes you’re in some Scandinavian country with sleek design, high-performing schools, and perhaps a fjord or geyser or two to look at. This pleases your brain and it makes you smarter as a reward. There are some side affects. For instance, you get the urge to seek out government sponsored medicine and pillage Canada.
I’m obviously simplifying the science for the lay audience, but the basic point remains: eat omega 3 fatty acids, and you become smarter, and perhaps also you become a socialist Viking.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m not the type to latch onto all those crazy health fads like, say, eating vegetables. But this omega 3 thing had me intrigued. First off, I have ADD. I know everyone
has ADD these days, but I was diagnosed back in 1983, way before Ritalin was cool. I’m something of an attention deficited pioneer, really. Also, I’ve been to Norway and loved it and I’d really like to see Iceland sometime. If there’s anything that can make my brain think I’m there, I’m taking it.
So I run out to my closest Trader Joe’s (150 miles away) and get a bottle of clear pellet looking things that apparently contain whatever oil you get in a fish. Yahoo! The instructions say to take one a day with food. I break out some food and get to work.
Within a day or two, I notice a difference. Quite a striking difference, really. I’m getting dumber.
At first it was just little things. I found myself in the break room at work, not knowing exactly what I was looking for. Moments later I remembered that I actually needed to go to the bathroom but got distracted long the way.
The next day I went to work and forgot to bring my electric razor with me. I work in a profession where looks matter
, so I usually wait to shave until it’s time to go on the air. But I forgot my razor. Lucky for me, I was in my neighborhood during my workday, so I stopped by the house. I milled around for a few moments, checked the mail, had a snack, then left… without my razor. I didn’t have time to go home a second time, so I just caked on the makeup to disguise my 5-O’clock shadow and wound up looking more than a little like George Hamilton
But the big problem came on Monday. I did a tax day story on last-minute filers and had a live shot in front of the downtown post office. The cameraman cues me up and I fire off the following sentence, “There used to be a tax day ritual here at the downtown airport…” Airport. I just told our entire viewing audience that I was at the airport, when I was clearly at the post office. What’s worse, I didn’t even know what I had done. The cameraman had to tell me. I was able to issue an emphatic correction moments later, lest anyone think the airport had relocated downtown.
After that mishap, I went and listened to my Australian podcast again, just to see if I was taking the right stuff. That’s when I caught this one sentence from a mother whose ADD afflicted son was part of the omega 3 experiments. When asked how her son acted once he started taking the fish stuff, she said, “Actually he got worse.”
Worse? Hey now, I thought I was supposed to be Einstein after taking this stuff for a week or two! The scientist went on to explain that it takes up to three months for the treatment to have its desired affect.
I’m not so sure I can wait that long. My brain is all I’ve got; I can’t work without it until June.
Whatever the case, I can’t linger on this subject for long. Julie has been away for several days and her flight comes in this afternoon. I’ll need to be at the post office by 2 PM to pick her up. Wish me luck.