Brain & Body, Food and Drink

As the old cliche says, the kitchen is the heart of the home. But hearts, and kitchens, can become unhealthy and impact on every part of our lives. The good news is the reverse is also true. Improve your heart and everything else follow.

A few small, cheap changes to your kitchen and the food you prepare can make a big difference to the well being of you and your family. These are my personal tips for making a healthier kitchen on a budget.

Blender + Fruit + OJ = Smoothie

The health benefits of fresh fruit are well known but most of us struggle to incorporate them into our daily diet. Smoothies are an easy way of doing this and big companies have wasted no time promoting smoothie machines and similar gadgets for the home. The truth is you do not need one. A simple blender does the trick just as well and they cost £10 from Tesco. While you are there, pick up orange juice, a few bananas and whatever fruit is in season (or on discount). Chuck everything into the blender, press the button and 30 seconds later you have a smoothie. Get into the habit of making a smoothie every morning and you will take big a step towards eating your ‘5-a-day’.

Slow Cooker / Crock-Pot

After a hard day at work that pizza menu or tv-dinner becomes very tempting. The solution is to prepare everything in the morning when our energy levels are higher and use a slow cooker. These are the forgotten kitchen gadgets. A basic slow cooker model costs approximately £20 and they, well, cook your food slowly. Don’t stress over fancy recipes. Chop whatever vegetables you have, throw in chicken thighs or stewing beef, add a pint of stock, spices and herbs to taste and turn it on. The slow cooker will heat everything gently over the course of the day and when you return in the evening, a hot, healthy meal is waiting.

A Wok

If you don’t already own a wok, buy one and buy the most basic wok you can find. You don’t need a lid or even a non-stick coating. What is important is you can pick it up easily because cooking in a wok is about speed and moving the food around the pan. This cooks without destroying the flavour or nutrients and it’s fast. A cheap, healthy meal full of fresh vegetables can be cooked in under ten minutes.

A Smile

The kitchen is focused on the needs of the body. A place where we prepare food and drink to sustain our physical form. Often forgotten is our mental health which is as important to our wellbeing as our bodies. Combat this by having things in your kitchen which make you smile and remind you of the good times. These can be nik-naks or pictures on the fridge but I suggest something practical. For example mugs featuring pictures of the family or placemats with photos from your holidays. This way, you are reminded of the good times and loved ones every time they are used. There are numerous products available via the internet and it really doesn’t matter what you choose as long as it makes you smile.

A Shopping List (And A Little Planning)

Everyone wants to eat healthier and save money and one little trick which can do both is using a shopping list to plan your meals. The average family throws away around £700 worth of food a year and spends over £500 a year on take-aways. By planning your meals with a shopping list a family can ensure they have enough easy-to-prepare, healthy food in the house. This stops waste and helps resist the temptations of a take-away meal. Cut your food waste and take-aways in half and you will save £600 per year and be healthier. It just takes a piece of paper, a pen and five minutes of planning before heading to the supermarket.

The Low Budget, Healthy Home Kitchen was written by Chris Tregenza on behalf of Fitted Kitchens, Nottingham.

ADD / ADHD, Food and Drink

Judging by the comments on Caffeine and ADHD some parents are considering using caffeine to treat ADHD instead of medication such as Ritalin. One possible source of caffeine is energy drinks, such as Red Bull, but there are risks with these drinks.

According to a research:

Since Red Bull, the first energy drink to hit the U.S. market, launched in 1997, the market has boomed, Griffiths says, now totaling at least $5.4 billion a year in the U.S. Hundreds of brands are available.

Although the FDA limits the caffeine contents of cola-type soft drinks to 71 milligrams per 12 fluid ounces, no such limit is required on energy drinks, Griffiths tells WebMD.

“Makers of so-called “energy” drinks generally market them as dietary supplements,” says Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokesperson. Dietary supplements are regulated differently than food. The FDA does not approve or review the products before they are marketed.

Source: Energy Drinks: Hazardous to Your Health?, Safety issues associated with energy drinks

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Food and Drink

The Guardian newspaper had a big splash on yesterday’s front page “New fears over additives in children’s food“. It claimed that colorings and preservatives effected children’s behaviour, possibly causing hyperactivity. Is there any science behind this latest “food is dangerous” story or is it just the latest in a long line of spacing filling, bad reporting of bad science?

ADHD and Diet

The first proponent that additives are dangerous and cause ADHD was Dr Feingold in the in the 1970’s. Backed by research he claimed that diet and adhd were linked and that if you cut out all colorings, hyperactivity went away. Later research found that the Feingold diet only helped 2% of children. However diet does seem play some part as it effects weight (see ADHD and Obesity) and diet can effect sleep patterns (see ADHD and Sleep Disorders). The current wisdom is that food additives are not dangerous but a bad diet full of fast food, sweets, fat and sugar, is dangerous and can amplify existing behavioral problems.

New Research on Additives and ADHD

The new research is a follow up to research from 2000 but only published in 2004. Researchers from the Isle of Wight in the UK looked at 277 three year old children who had been assessed for hyperactivity and atopy. The children’s diet was then changed so that for one week the children went without additives, then in random order, a week with added colorings, a week with added preservatives (sodium benzoate) and a week with a placebo. The children were assessed both by a research in a clinical setting and by their parents at home. Neither the researcher or the parents knew which order the children were receiving the additives, colorings or placebo.

When the results were analysed there were no detectable difference in the children’s behaviour when assessed by the researcher in the clinical setting. However the parent’s assessment found a significant reduction in hyperactivity in the week without additives and preservative plus an increase in hyperactivity in the week with the added preservatives.

The fact that this difference in behaviour was only notice by the parent’s is a warning sign that something might be problematic with the research. It might be that the criteria or the method of assessment being used was somehow biased or that it wasn’t sensitive enough to pick up behavioral changes in the clinical setting. It may be that parents are better judges of their own children’s behaviour or it could be that there was not difference and this is just a statistical anomaly. Without further research there was no way of telling.

Chemicals in Food

The UK’s Food Standards Agency Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) looked at this research. They conclued:

Published data suggest exclusion of specific dietary components can affect some measures of behaviour in some children. The researchers suggest that this study provides evidence that food additives had statistically significant effects on some measures of behaviour, irrespective of whether the children were atopic, hyperactive or neither. We acknowledge that the study is consistent with published reports of behavioural changes occurring in some children following consumption of particular food additives. We also note that the authors suggest that this may apply to children who are not considered to be hyperactive. However, we consider that it is not possible to reach firm conclusions about the clinical significance of the observed effects.

New research was funded to clarify the findings further and it was this new study that the Guardian was reporting on.

Are Food Additives Dangerous?

As with all good food scare stories in the media, the actual results of the study have not been published so facts cannot be checked. After the last study it took 4 years for the results to be published so don’t hold your breath. However the COT assessed the results on the 20th March and according to a member of the committee, quoted in the Guardian, the new results were the same the previous study.

Until the research is published and can be properly peer-reviewed it is impossible to say how safe or dangerous these food additives are. Until we do know, minimising children’s exposure to these additives though a healthy, balanced diet involving lots of fresh vegetables and fruit is the best advice available.

The Additives in Question

  • Tartrazine (E102)
  • Ponceau 4R (E124)
  • Sunset Yellow (E110)
  • Carmoisine (E122)
  • Quinoline yellow (E104)
  • Allura Red AC (E129)
  • Sodium Benzoate (E211)

Original Research: The effects of a double blind, placebo controlled, artificial food colourings and benzoate preservative challenge on hyperactivity in a general population sample of preschool children
COT agenda and papers: 20 March 2007

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment, Food and Drink

A round up Myomancy’s coverage of Omega-3 for ADHD and dyslexia.

The Durham trial is the largest experiment on omega-3 and dyslexia related reading problems. Not every is convinced by this experiment, spawning a satirical take on the Durham trials.

Fish oils rich in omega-3 have been reported to calm ADHD child in just 15 weeks. Other studies have similar benefits: ADHD and Omega Fish Oils.

Omega 3 & 6 can help more than dyslexia and ADHD. It has been linked to mental and physical health problems. After a mining accident Randal McCloy Jr. suffered CO2 poisoning and was left in coma. Large doses of omega-3 have been credited in his remarkable recovery.

Don’t know you EPA from your AA then read ALA to DHA: The Fish Oil Alphabet to learn how Omega-3 and Omega-6 are just the start of a complex process.

If you don’t fancy taking supplements but want to get your fatty acids through your everyday food then read The Omega-3 Diet. You may also want to read about the risks of eating fish high in omega-3.

A review of the book, The LCP Solution and the BBC TV’s flagship science program Horizon looked at fish oils and intelligence.

Recently VegEPA has been stealing the media limelight from EyeQ, the people behind the Durha, trial.

Are omega-3 & 6 supplement safe or do these fish oils have side effects.

ADD / ADHD Treatment, Dyslexia Treatment, Food and Drink

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fish oils have been promoted not only for dyslexia and ADHD but also heart disease,high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, bipolar disorder and cancer. In some cases there is good evidence to support fish oils as a treatment and in others the evidence is unclear. But what are the health risks of taking fish oils? Lots of producers of fish-oil capsules promote large dosages of supplements so are there any side effects from fish oils?

The US National Institute of Health classifies low intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish as “Generally Regarded as Safe”. However they do highlight certain fish oil side effects that may trouble some people. The omega-3 in the fish oil may increase the risk of bleeding when taken in large doses. The bleeding can take the form of strokes, nosebleeds and blood in the urine. As the fish oils seem to decrease platelet aggregation, bleeding times may be longer.

A major worry with fish oils and the fish they are created from is poisoning from heavy metal and other pollutants. Mercury, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are found in some species of fish. However, mostly this fish oil side effect is associated with eating fish directly as the oil, even in contaminated fish, carries little of the pollutants.

Stomach upset are a common side effect of fish oil supplements. Diarrhea may also occur, with potentially severe diarrhea at very high doses. There are also reports of increased burping, acid reflux/heartburn/indigestion, abdominal bloating, and abdominal pain. Fishy aftertaste is a common effect. Gastrointestinal side effects can be minimized if fish oils are taken with meals and if doses are started low and gradually increased.

People with low blood pressure or those taking blood-pressure reducing medicines should take care. One of the reported side effects of fish oil is a reduction of blood pressure. The impact on blood pressure appears to be dose dependent.

Vitamin E plays a part in metabolizing omega acids so large doses of fish oil place high demands on the body’s vitamin E supply. To avoid this fish oil side effect, vitamin E is added to many commercial fish oil products. As a result, regular use of vitamin E-enriched products may lead to elevated levels of this fat-soluble vitamin. Fish liver oil contains the fat-soluble vitamins A and D, and therefore fish liver oil products (such as cod liver oil) may increase the risk of vitamin A or D toxicity.

One side effect of fish oils and their fatty acids is an increase low-density lipoprotein levels (“bad cholesterol”) by 5-10%. This is dependent on the dose used. The oils have also been noted to have an effect on blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 / Adult Onset Diabetes but this is short-term and no long-term effects have been reported.

Overall omega-3 and 6 rich fish oils have few side effects and can be considered safe the vast majority of the population.

Source: Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, alpha-linolenic acid from the NIH.
See also: The Omega-3 Diet, ALA to DHA: The Fish Oil Alphabet and The Incredible Brain: A Miner Recovered.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment, Dyspraxia, Food and Drink, Memory

VegEPA is a Omega-3 fish oil supplement that has received a lot of media attention this week. Its been everywhere from the Times of London who said “Overweight children who took fatty acid dietary supplements showed dramatic improvements in concentration, reading, memory and mental agility. ” to the Indian Catholic who wrote “at the end of the three-month study found the children showed an increase in reading age of well over a year, their handwriting became neater and more accurate and they paid more attention in class“. None of this coverage of VegEPA has been at all critical apart from Ben Goldacre in the Guardian’s Bad Science column.

Then you might look at the outcomes measured. Behavioural outcomes, in a study of four children, with no control, and lots of extra attention for the subjects – including TV cameras pointing at them – are meaningless. “One boy who previously scorned books and was hooked on TV developed a love of reading and declared he was ‘bored’ with television” said the Daily Mail. I bet he did.

What is VegEPA and does it deserve the uncritical acclaim it has received?

According to the maker’s website each capsule contains 280mg of EPA, 100mg evening primrose oil and 1mg of vitamin E. They recommend children under the age of ten should take one capsule daily but older children and adults should take between four and eight VegEPA tablets. No further information is offered on how to decide how many tablets to take. The US National Institutes of Health recommends a daily intake of 650mg of EPA where as the World Health Organization and governmental health agencies of several countries recommend consuming 300mg – 500mg of EPA + DHA daily. So the VegEPA range for four to eight tables (1120mg – 2240mg) constitutes a high dosage of EPA.

The EPA, or Eicosapentaenoic Acid to give it is full name, in VegEPA is an omega 3 fatty acid. It is metabolized to produce hormone-like agents that play a part in cell division and growth, blood clotting, muscle activity, secretion of digestive juices and hormones, and movement of substances like calcium into and out of cells. However its role in the body is extremely complex so its very hard to clearly identify whether higher-dosages of EPA are beneficial.

One of the key selling points of VegEPA over rivals such EyeQ used in the Durham trials is that VegEPA contains no Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) despite DHA being an omega-6 fish oil that has been linked to similar health benefits as EPA. The problem with DHA is that it competes with EPA for bodily resources so too much DHA may impact on the body’s ability to process EPA. As the western diet already contains as much as 10 time more omega-6 than omega-3 there is no need to take supplemental EPA.

The big question is does VegEPA help dyslexics with reading, concentration and memory? Well Igennus Ltd, the makers, have references to lot of scientific papers on their web site but not one of them is about their product. Not a single peer-reviewed study uses the off-the-shelf product in a properly controlled trial that shows any benefit in reading, concentration or memory for dyslexics of those suffering from ADHD.

A better question is might VegEPA work? Maybe. The National Institute of Health say:

The quantity and strength of evidence for the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on cognitive function and decline, dementia, and neurological diseases vary greatly. Given the overall small number of studies and generally poor quality of clinical trials, substantive conclusions about the value of these compounds for these conditions cannot be drawn.

VegEPA may work but you may as well just take normal omega-3 tablets. The simple answer is that we know that omega-3 is an important part of our diet but we don’t know how all the different bodily processes interact with it. There is no evidence that supplements of 200mg of EPA is better or worse that 2000mg for dyslexia and ADHD. It is £11.95 for 60 capsules (about 15 days worth) compared to £7.95 for 100 standard Omega-3 capules (about a month’s supply) . So going for VegEPA will cost you four times as much for something that is not clearly four times as good.

See: ALA to DHA: The Fish Oil Alphabet, ADHD and Omega Fish Oils, The Omega-3 Diet
References: NIH Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Health

Food and Drink, Web/Tech

For those of you outside the UK, Viz, is a publication in the style of a children’s comic but very much aimed at the adult population. I use the word adult very loosely here as Viz’s style of humor tends to involve bodily functions. Buried amongst the puerile are occasional gems of satire such as the one Bad Science spotted sending up the Druham Fish Oil trials

Parents in Nottingham are demanding that their children be given free Snake Oil in order to improve their examination results.
Snaik Oil, though not scientifically accepted as a ‘brain suplement’ or ‘food’, has long been associated with increased brain function in pub conversations and newspaper columns, a fact which parents are keen to see reflected in school spending.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Diagnosis, ADD / ADHD Medication, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Auditory, Autism, Autism and Mercury, Autism Tests & Diagnosis, Autism Treatment, Balance & Coordination, Books, Commercial Dyslexia Centres & Treatments, Dore Achievement Centres, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Testing & Diagnosis, Dyslexia Treatment, Dyspraxia, Food and Drink, Franchised Dyslexia Treatments, Games, History, Medication, Memory, Music, Science, Sports, Television, Visual, Web/Tech

Over the last few weeks this website has been attracting comments from various members and ex-members of staff of the Dore Achievement Centres. This has come to the attention of the CEO of UK branch, Bob Clarke, who has posted comments on Myomancy and also to Wynford Dore himself who has phoned me. Conversations with Wynford are always enjoyable but challenging because Wynford believes so passionately about what he does. So when Myomancy runs a negative story about the Dore Program he tends to forget all the places on Myomancy where I’ve said the Dore Program works and that it changes lives.

In light of all this I thought it wise to make a clear statement to all my readers about why I devote a considerable amount of time and money to running Myomancy.

  • The goal of Myomancy is to provide independent information on treatments for dyslexia, ADHD and autism so that parents and sufferers can make an informed choice about what is the best approach for them.
  • Myomancy is a blog, a personal web site. It represents my views and my views alone on all things connected with ADHD, dyslexia and Autism.
  • These views are researched and expressed on Myomancy to the best of my abilities but I am not a scientist, teacher or a professional writer. I am just someone who’s life was changed by the Dore Program and felt a need to express myself.
  • I believe in free speech which is why I allow anyone to post comments on the articles regardless of whether they are for or against my views. Only post that are illegal or purely offensive are removed.
  • Myomancy generates a small amount of income for advertising. I would like it to be more so that I can afford to spend more time on Myomancy. It is up to the reader to decide what, if any, impact that has on the independence of Myomancy.

With reference to the above I have removed one comment from the website that is highly critical of the Dore Program and, based on additional evidence I have at my disposal, is completely false.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Medication, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Food and Drink

Does ADHD have anything to do with enzymes and can No-Fenol enzyme supplements help?

Mary, a long time friend of Myomancy, dropped me a line recently about ADHD and diet with a link to information on enzymes and ADHD. Enyzmes act as a catalysts for the chemical reactions that drive our biology and each has a specific role to play. The article promotes the use of No-Fenol, an enzyme supplement that is typical of the type on the market.

When I looked at ADHD and diet, I found there was no evidence of a poor diet causing ADHD. The best advice I could find was to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. This won’t directly help with the ADHD but you will feel better and it helps to avoid weight problems (see ADHD and Obesity). However there was connection between omega-3 and ADHD . Supplements of fish oils did help some people on some specific tasks. Could enzyme supplements help ADHD in the same way?

The logic behind enzymes supplements is that by increasing the number of enzymes in the digestive system all the food you eat will be processed more efficiently. This will ensure that all the vitamins and minerals needed at picked up from our food. This presupposes that ADHD is caused by vitamin or mineral deficiencies, a position that is questionable.

Searching both Google Scholar and the maker of No-Fenol’s web site I can find no evidence to say that enzymes supplements help ADHD. In fact I can’t find a single piece of evidence that enzymes supplements can help with anything other highly specific medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis.

Diet and ADHD is an area that is rich in advice, supplements and books. Most of these are done with the best intentions but lack any direct evidence for their claims. Companies use science to show how Ingredient X helps with Vitamin Y that has been linked to Problem Z but that doesn’t mean the taking more X or Y will help with Z. Before taking any supplement its worth asking to see research showing that the specific product you are considering buying works on your problem. If they can’t then their claims are speculation at best.

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