Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Time to toss those omega-3 supplements?

According to a new study we should all toss out our omega-3 supplements. This study found that there was no association between omega-3 supplementation and risk of death from cardiac events nor stroke. I’m not convinced enough to stop taking my supplement yet though.

Dietitians, and other health care professionals, have been encouraging omega-3 supplementation for those who do not consume enough (2-3 servings) fatty fish (e.g. salmon, sardines, mackerel) for a number of years. Previous studies have found that people who consume more of these types of fish have decreased risk of death from heart disease and stroke.

The problem lies in the fact that no supplement can compensate for a poor diet. If you’re consuming red meat and high levels of omega-6 (as most North Americans are) then you’re not likely to benefit from taking an omega-3 supplement. In the studies where consumption of fish was increased there was also a corresponding decrease in consumption of meat.

I’m going to continue to take my omega-3 supplement just because I know that I don’t eat enough fish. However, I also eat very little meat. The other reason that I’m going to continue to take my supplement is that there is a possibility that there may be other benefits to omega-3 supplementation beside cardiovascular health. Although current research is inconclusive, there may be benefits to mental well being.

I’m not suggesting that everyone should take an omega-3 supplement. If you can eat more fish, and less meat, you’d be much better off doing that.


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Is your diet making you angry?

A recent study published in PLoS one found that trans-fat consumption was associated with increased levels of aggression. In fact, the researchers found that trans-fat consumption was a better predictor of aggressive behaviour than commonly used predictors of aggression. Of course, this was an observational study as it would be unethical to assign people to diets high in trans-fat so we can’t say for certain that it was the consumption of trans-fat that was the cause of the aggressive behaviours. However, there was a strong link between these two factors so it is quite plausible that diets high in trans-fat may increase aggressive
behaviour.

I recall reading a study a number of years ago (which I can’t seem to find a link to) that showed a relationship between diet and risk of re-offending for juvenile offenders. The researcher for this study suspected that a nutritionally deficient diet might be contributing to the criminal activities of juvenile offenders. The offenders were then provided with a nutritious diet whilst in detention and it was found that the behaviours of those fed the healthy diet were significantly improved and following release they were less likely to re-offend.

I find links between behaviour and diet fascinating (my first degree was in psychology and I still love learning about the field). I think it shows that diet affects us in many ways that we are not consciously aware of. It’s commonly accepted that a healthy diet can help to keep our bodies healthy. Beyond that, what we eat may have important implications for our mental health as well.