Are We Getting Dumber?
After millions of years of evolution has bought the human race a brain size of 1600cc compared to that of a chimpanzee at 350cc. However, a recent press release has found a plethora of evidence to suggest human brain size is decreasing; resulting in lower IQs alongside mental health.
Our large brain is substantial but not compared to the 1700cc of a dolphin brain. These differences mostly arise due the nutrients we consume. Professor Micheal Crawford, the director of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition UK, claims omega-3 DHA, derived from algae, is they key fatty acid that stimulates our brains to express genes. He says this was the factor that “would have powered the increase in brain size and function.” In fact, dolphins are consuming considerably more omega-3 DHA than the average 21st century human.
Omega-3 DHL can be acquired from seafood including mussels, crabs, oysters and fish. The modern human consumes less of these than ever due to the shift in diet away from fats and towards carbohydrates and sugar. This arose from the misconception that it was the fat in our diets causing physical conditions such as heart disease, although evidence now suggests sugar is the biggest factor. The lack of seafood in our diets has led to “increased rates of depression, autism, ADHD and dementia” from lower omega-3 DHL intake; claims the CEO of the charity FoodfortheBrain, Patrick Holford.
Furthermore, Holford recommends if you are following a plant-based diet you “must supplement omega-3 DHL, derived from algae”. Getting a blood test to check your levels can help identify if you are taking the right amount of omega-3. This can be carried out via Food for the Brain’s pin prick test that can be delivered to your door!
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, brain expert Professor Stephan Cunnane suggests a “shore-based diet” including “frogs, bird’s eggs and aquatic plants” are the best way to increase your brain power.
Professor Crawford also highlights that during pregnancy, a diet poor in omega-3 can lead to the child having learning and emotional problems from the lower IQ. This arises from how the body produces a substitute fat, called oleic acid, to fill the baby’s brain in the absence of omega-3 DHL.
In the past couple of decades it has been measured that IQ scores are falling. This follows the long-term study by Norwegian researchers, analysing the IQ scores of Norwegian men born from 1962-1991. They found that their scores had been steadily dropping. Ole Rogeberg, head of the research group states “similar studies in Denmark, Britain, France and the Netherlands, Finland and Estonia have demonstrated a similar downward Trent in IQ scores”. Since the shift in diet to carbohydrates and fatty acids, IQ scores have been on a downward trend at a 7% loss per generation.
The consequences of a lower IQ score and brain size is not only related to intelligence but has been found to increase the risk of developing a mental health condition. A report from the World Health Organisation (WHO), found mental health conditions has risen by 13% and now one in earth people suffer from some form of mental illness. This corresponds with how there were over 100 million antidepressant prescriptions last year, in the UK alone.
“Our genome is adapted to eating the wild foods we ate during our species’ evolution” according to Crawford. So, before you chow down on your plate of chips or bowl of cornflakes, consider the effects these foods will have on your brain. Perhaps a meal containing more aquatic plants or fish will help you finish your assignment, so you can get to the pub sooner!