A few years ago I discovered that flaxseed oil greatly improved my balance. I'm sure this is because it's high in omega-3. Millions of people use flaxseed oil. I'd never heard anyone say it improves brain function. I thought that there might be other ordinary things that have a big and unnoticed effect on brain function. In order to find these big effects, I started making regular measurements of how well my brain worked. To do this I used an arithmetic task. I measured how fast I could do simple arithmetic problems. The whole test involved 32 problems and took 3 minutes. This graph shows results from that test. The July on the x axis is last month. On the y axis is how long it took to answer one problem. For a long time the average was around 630 ms. I rarely got below 620 ms and never got below 600 ms. Then one day I suddenly improved. I started averaging 600 ms. That was the day I started eating lots of butter. I started eating butter because I couldn't get pork fat. I had found that pork fat improves my sleep. After that I started eating half a stick of butter, 60 g, per day. You can see that I continued to do well on the arithmetic test. So butter makes my brain work better. When I started eating butter, the butter replaced pork fat. I had already figured out that pork fat makes my brain work better, measured by how well I slept. These results suggest that butter makes my brain work even better than pork fat. You can see that self-tracking was necessary for this discovery.
After I talked about my butter results at a QS meetup, Greg Biggers and Eri Gentry did a study at Genomera to test this idea with other people. Their study had about 40 people. Everyone in the study did arithmetic problems as fast as possible. There were three groups. One group ate butter one week and compared performance that week to other weeks. Another group ate coconut oil that week; a third group did nothing. This graph shows how much faster people were on the special week compared to the other weeks. The people who ate butter were about 5% faster; the people who ate coconut oil or nothing were not faster. So this repeated what I found.
Comes from 3-dimensional X-ray.
Here's another sign of stagnation: Old treatments. In a well-functioning system, old treatments would be replaced by better treatments. In many areas of health care, that's not happening. Obesity and depression are two examples. Mainstream treatments for obesity are ancient. Suppose you have a serious weight problem. It's entirely possible your doctor will tell you to eat less and get more exercise. Doctors were saying that half a century ago. Or your doctor might tell you to eat a low-fat diet. Doctors were saying that a half century ago. Or your doctor might tell you do eat an Atkins diet. Low-carb diets are a hundred years old. Recently Scientific American had a cover story about obesity. The ideas in it were so old that someone commented &quot;I had to double-check to make sure it was a 2011 magazine.&quot; Depression is similar. Current anti-depressant drugs are just variations on Prozac, which was introduced a quarter-century ago. The most popular non-drug therapy for depression is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is half a century old. These treatments don't work very well. But they haven't been replaced.
AHS Slides_Seth Roberts
What Foods Make My Brain Work Best? <ul><li>Seth Roberts </li></ul><ul><li>Tsinghua University & UC Berkeley </li></ul><ul><li>Ancestral Health Symposium </li></ul><ul><li>6 August 2011 </li></ul>
Background <ul><li>breakfast is bad -> paleo interest </li></ul><ul><li>Shangri-La Diet: "Flaxseed oil?" </li></ul><ul><li>better balance </li></ul><ul><li>Aquatic Ape theory of evolution </li></ul>
Flaxseed Oil: Other Benefits <ul><li>Me : Dentist said my gums no longer inflamed (= now pink, no longer red) </li></ul><ul><li>Tyler Cowen ( Marginal Revolution ): No longer needed gum surgery </li></ul><ul><li>Tucker Max: Gums stop bleeding, recovers from sports injuries much faster. Stops flaxseed oil, bad gums return. </li></ul>
Flaxseed Oil: More Evidence of Gum Benefits <ul><li>Other people find same improvement (gums no longer inflamed) : my sister, Carl Willat, Joyce Cohen, Tim Beneke, Jack Rusher, blogger at Ihaveneverdonethisbefore.com. </li></ul><ul><li>Fred Stange, Dentist: "In 3 different instances I asked what the difference in their hygiene routine was." [Their answer:] Nothing, just adding the Omega 3." </li></ul>
Flaxseed Oil Summary <ul><li>1. Very clear brain benefits: balance, memory scan. </li></ul><ul><li>2. Benefits are general : 3 more tests (arithmetic, digit span, visual memory), 2 more people (Tim Lundeen, Sander Van De Cruys). </li></ul><ul><li>3. Other benefits : gums (many people), sports injuries (Tucker Max). </li></ul>
Pork Fat & Sleep <ul><li>Buy 10 lb of pork from boutique farmer. </li></ul><ul><li>Finally eat pork belly. </li></ul><ul><li>Sleep really well, great energy the next day. </li></ul>
Did Butter Cause Heart Scan Improvement? <ul><li>Two rare events coincided. Event 1: eat half stick of butter daily (1 in 1000?). Event 2: Big heart scan improvement (1 in 100). </li></ul><ul><li>Lightning doesn't strike twice in one place for different reasons . Only possibility: Event 1 (butter) caused Event 2 (heart scan improvement). </li></ul><ul><li>Mozaffarian et al. (2004): In older women, "a greater saturated fat intake is associated with less progression of coronary atherosclerosis." </li></ul><ul><li>Plausible that butter caused improvement </li></ul>
Butter Summary <ul><li>1. Caused big improvement in arithmetic speed. </li></ul><ul><li>2. Effect repeated in other people. </li></ul><ul><li>3. Plausible that it reduced heart disease risk. </li></ul>
What I Learned <ul><li>1. Flaxseed oil & butter very helpful. Improved cognition & other things. </li></ul><ul><li>2. Big brain improvement possible. Brain dysfunction often invisible. Big improvement elsewhere (inflammation, circulatory system) possible. </li></ul><ul><li>3. Trying to improve brain function led to improvements in rest of body. </li></ul><ul><li>4. Brief daily mental tests can help us decide what to eat. </li></ul>