The world’s first washing-up liquid bottle made from reclaimed ocean plastic is to go on sale in UK supermarkets later this month.
The green cleaning brand Ecover will use the launch of its new Ocean Bottle washing-up liquid to highlight the long-term dangers of dumping plastic in the sea, which is killing fish on a large scale and threatening global ecosystems.
Ecover, a Belgian company, has been working with manufacturer Logoplaste to combine plastic trawled from the sea with a plastic made from sugarcane (which it calls Plant-astic) and recycled plastic, in what it is hailing as a world-first for packaging.
You are what you eat, the saying goes, and now a study conducted by researchers at UC Santa Barbara and the University of Pittsburgh suggests that the oft-repeated adage applies not just to physical health but to brain power as well.
In a paper published in the early online edition of the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, the researchers compared the fatty acid profiles of breast milk from women in over two dozen countries with how well children from those same countries performed on academic tests.
Their findings show that the amount of omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a mother’s milk — fats found primarily in certain fish, nuts and seeds — is the strongest predictor of test performance. It outweighs national income and the number of dollars spent per pupil in schools.
DHA alone accounted for about 20 percent of the differences in test scores among countries, the researchers found.
On the other hand, the amount of omega-6 fat in mother’s milk — fats that come from vegetable oils such as corn and soybean — predict lower test scores. When the amount of DHA and linoleic acid (LA) — the most common omega-6 fat — were considered together, they explained nearly half of the differences in test scores. In countries where mother’s diets contain more omega-6, the beneficial effects of DHA seem to be reduced.
More omega-3, less omega-6
“Human intelligence has a physical basis in the huge size of our brains — some seven times larger than would be expected for a mammal with our body size,” said Steven Gaulin, UCSB professor of anthropology and co-author of the paper. “Since there is never a free lunch, those big brains need lots of extra building materials — most importantly, they need omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA. Omega-6 fats, however, undermine the effects of DHA and seem to be bad for brains.”
Both kinds of omega fat must be obtained through diet. But because diets vary from place to place, for their study Gaulin and his co-author, William D. Lassek, M.D., a professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health and a retired assistant surgeon general, estimated the DHA and LA content — the good fat and the bad fat — in diets in 50 countries by examining published studies of the fatty acid profiles of women’s breast milk.
The profiles are a useful measure for two reasons, according to Gaulin. First, because various kinds of fats interfere with one another in the body, breast milk DHA shows how much of this brain-essential fat survives competition with omega-6. Second, children receive their brain-building fats from their mothers. Breast milk profiles indicate the amount of DHA children in each region receive in the womb, through breastfeeding, and from the local diet available to their mothers and to them after they are weaned.
The academic test results came from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which administers standardized tests in 58 nations. Gaulin and Lassek averaged the three PISA tests — math, science and reading ability — as their measure of cognitive performance. There were 28 countries for which the researchers found information about both breast milk and test scores.
DHA content: best predictor of math test performance
“Looking at those 28 countries, the DHA content of breast milk was the single best predictor of math test performance,” Gaulin said. The second best indicator was the amount of omega-6, and its effect is opposite. “Considering the benefits of omega-3 and the detriment of omega-6, we can get pretty darn close to explaining half the difference in scores between countries,” he added. When DHA and LA are considered together, he added, they are twice as effective at predicting test scores as either is alone, Gaulin said.
Gaulin and Lassek considered two economic factors as well: per capita gross domestic product (a measure of average wealth in each nation) and per student expenditures on education. “Each of these factors helps explain some of the differences between nations in test scores, but the fatty acid profile of the average mother’s milk in a given country is a better predictor of the average cognitive performance in that country than is either of the conventional socioeconomic measures people use,” said Gaulin.
From their analysis, the researchers conclude that both economic wellbeing and diet make a difference in cognitive test performance, and children are best off when they have both factors in their favor. “But if you had to choose one, you should choose the better diet rather than the better economy,” Gaulin said.
The current research follows a study published in 2008 that showed that the children of women who had larger amounts of gluteofemoral fat “depots” performed better on academic tests than those of mothers with less. “At that time we weren’t trying to identify the dietary cause,” explained Gaulin. “We found that this depot that has been evolutionarily elaborated in women is important to building a good brain. We were content at that time to show that as a way of understanding why the female body is as evolutionarily distinctive as it is.”
Now the researchers are looking at diet as the key to brain-building fat, since mothers need to acquire these fats in the first place.
Their results are particularly interesting in 21st-century North America, Gaulin noted, because our current agribusiness-based diets provide very low levels of DHA — among the lowest in the world. Thanks to two heavily government-subsidized crops — corn and soybeans — the average U.S. diet is heavy in the bad omega-6 fatty acids and far too light on the good omega-3s, Gaulin said.
Wrong kind of polyunsaturated fat
“Back in the 1960s, in the middle of the cardiovascular disease epidemic, people got the idea that saturated fats were bad and polyunsaturated fats were good,” he explained. “That’s one reason margarine became so popular. But the polyunsaturated fats that were increased were the ones with omega-6, not omega-3. So our message is that not only is it advisable to increase omega 3 intake, it’s highly advisable to decrease omega-6 — the very fats that in the 1960s and ’70s we were told we should be eating more of.”
Gaulin added that mayonnaise is, in general, the most omega-6-laden food in the average person’s refrigerator. “If you have too much of one — omega-6 — and too little of the other — omega 3 — you’re going to end up paying a price cognitively,” he said.
The issue is a huge concern for women, Gaulin noted, because “that’s where kids’ brains come from. But it’s important for men as well because they have to take care of the brains their moms gave them.
“Just like a racecar burns up some of its motor oil with every lap, your brain burns up omega-3 and you need to replenish it every day,” he said.
(Image: Stacy Librandi)
So last month I blogged a bit about the darkness that is Tim Horton’s. Now this. (If you haven’t been following the business news, Burger King is seeking to purchase Tim Horton’s with a substantial infusion of venture capital, including funds from Berkshire Hathaway.)
There must be some sort of conspiracy rumour that we can start from this. Remember the satanic symbolism in the Procter and Gamble logo?
What bizarre revelation do YOU see in darkness?
Want to learn more about urban agriculture and be involved in the movement in NYC? You simply must come to the first of a series exploring the future of food in NYC on Thursday, September 18, from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Wix Lounge 235 West 23rd Street | 8th floor.
You’ve heard the…
What a promising event. Alas, on the opposite coast.
Well, it’s sort of about food.
(Photo by Derek Means, from FoodRepublic.com in October 2012 article)
Just a message to all of you starting grad school:
Take care of yourself. Graduate school is a statistically proven mentally and emotionally unhealthy environment. Figure out how the campus counseling center functions now, and remember that your mental and emotional health—not your professors’ demands—comes first.
No paper, no reading, no class, no adviser is more important than your mental and emotional health. Please remember that, and please be nice to yourself.
(image used without permission)
Off topic, but I always hope that there are students, even grad students, among my 107 followers.
Historicity-was-already-taken’s advice is sound. Graduate and professional education in the United States routinely engages in practices that would bring an employer huge fines were they to allow similar treatment. Even well-meaning faculty (and not all research faculty are) who want you to succeed lack the training in supervision, coaching, and mentoring we expect in high performing organizations. And they certainly aren’t there to keep you from spiraling into an oblivion of self-doubt and despair.
A dear friend came visiting last weekend and brought this as a host gift. Knowing my penchant for both honeys and teas, while visiting a Rogue outlet in Oregon he picked up a bottle of this— a mead brewed in part from honey produced by the hives the brewers and farmers at Rogue keep to pollinate their hops. It is also lightly scented with green jasmine tea.
If you are a cider drinker finding most beers to hoppy for your taste, you should try this. Visit the Rogue website at www.rogue.com .
Followers of the site on Twitter or Facebook might have already spotted this graphic. If you’re unaware of the Food Babe, or her latest crusade of misinformation regarding chemicals in Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, then this post might not make much sense, but you can at least be thankful you’ve had a facepalm-free day. If you have spotted some of the fallout of her ‘revelations’, here’s a quick image I threw together for you to show to anyone who’s unsure about the claims being bandied around.
Now, I don’t even like Starbucks all that much (and confess to never having had a Pumpkin Spice Latte). I’m also all for transparency about the various substances added to food and drinks. However, spreading wilful misinformation about chemicals added to food isn’t helping matters at all in that regard - if anything, it’s only going to make manufacturers more reticent to make publicly available the ingredients in their products, for fear of the scientifically illiterate coming at them with pitchforks.
Had no idea that there was a story going ‘round about carcinogens in Starbucks’ pumpkin spice lattes. True, I think they are toxic— coffee should taste like coffee. But the author is rational.
Hmmpff. We’ve come to a point where simply being rational is sufficient reason (sic) to be re-blogged.
Be Vewwy Afwaid: These Bunnies Are Huge
Your run of the mill rabbits, like Peter and “Watership Down’s” Hazel, have larger cousins. Much larger. Among breeds of rabbits there are over 10 giant varieties. Soon there may be one more. In 2009, the Spanish government started a breeding program to bring back the giant Valenciano Rabbit. Vin…
Oh. My. Gosh.