Omega-3s and Mental Well-being

Can eating more omega – 3s really boost our moods? The answer, based on the available scientific and clinical evidence, seems to be a cautious yes. There are four lines of evidence supporting the role of omega-3 essential fatty acids in depression. First, there are compelling population studies linking the eating of large amounts of fish (omega-3 fatty acids)  to low rates of major depression. The second line of evidence includes neurochemical studies in animals  (looking at brain chemistry).

The Omega-3 Connection: The Groundbreaking Anti-depression Diet and Brain Program by Andrew L. Stoll

The omega-3 fatty acids are important not just for health; they’re important for happiness, too. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are found in high concentrations in fatty, carnivorous fish such as herring, mackerel, tuna, and salmon. (Smaller amounts are found in other fish.) In countries where more fish is consumed, there is a lower rate of depression. Omega-3 fish oils can elevate your mood. Besides their use for depression, studies have shown that is helpful for bipolar disorder, as well.
Supplement Your Prescription: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition by Hyla Cass, M.D.

Jonathan Zeuss, who has no doubt that depression is “to a very large degree, a nutritionally caused disease,” touts the benefits benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. “They are absolutely crucial,” he says. “There is a huge amount of evidence now linking omega-3 deficiency deficiency and depression. Around a quarter of the dry weight of our brains brains is made up of omega-3s and if you are deficient in them, the cells in your brain brain malfunction and you are much more likely to become depressed.” Omega-3s are known as essential fatty acids.
The Food-Mood Connection: Nutrition-based and Environmental Approaches to Mental Health and Physical Wellbeing by Gary Null and Amy McDonald

Dietary advice to lower cholesterol levels tends to increase the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 and decreases the level of the essential omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexanoic acid. Population-based studies  in various countries and the United States have indicated that decreased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids correlates with increased rates of depression. There is a consistent association between depression and coronary artery disease. Food Allergies Depression and fatigue have been linked with food allergies for over sixty-five years.
Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Revised Second Edition by Michael T. Murray, N.D., Joseph E. Pizzorno, N.D.

Donald Rudin and other authorities believe a deficiency of the Omega-3 fat is a main cause of depression and other mental disorders. Omega-3 fats work to keep us mentally and emotionally healthy and strong in three ways: 1. Omega-3 fats act as precursors for the body’s production of key prostaglandins. 2. Omega-3 fats provide the substrate for B vitamins and co-enzymes to produce compounds that regulate many vital functions. 3. Omega-3 fats provide energy and nourishment to our nerve and brain cells.
The Facts about Fats: A Consumer’s Guide to Good Oils by John Finnegan

The implications of omega-3 deficiency on the brain are profound and span the entire human life cycle. Beginning in pregnancy, premature birth and its potential neurologic complications may result from omega-3 deficiency. Babies who are bottle-fed or born from omega-3-deficient mothers will lack the omega-3 fatty acids necessary for optimal cognitive and visual development. Children deprived of omega-3s may have less ability to pay attention and control impulsive behavior and may be at higher risk for depression.
The Omega-3 Connection: The Groundbreaking Anti-depression Diet and Brain Program by Andrew L. Stoll

But the importance of omega-3s for the brain hardly stops after infancy. Too little omega-3s have been linked to both attention deficit disorder (ADD) and depression. Research at Harvard has shown significant improvement in bipolar depression with large doses of omega-3supplements. And studies have strongly suggested that increased fish oil intake could reduce anger and hostility in alchoholics, troubled teenagers, and violence-prone prisoners. “Clearly omega-3 fatty acids are essential to good brain health,” says my friend Daniel Amen, M.D.
The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth about What Treatments Work and Why by Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.

In his excellent book The Omega-3 Connection, Harvard Medical School professor Andrew Stoll, M.D., answers his own question, “Can eating more omega-3s really boost our mood?” with the statement: “The answer, based on the available scientific and clinical evidence, seems to be a cautious yes.” There are compelling population studies linking the consumption of large amounts of fish (omega-3 fatty acids) to low rates of depression. Controlled clinical trials of omega-3s in depression are under way at any number of research centers.
The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth About What You Should Eat and Why by Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.

Depressed people have been reported to have lower omega-3 fatty acid levels (e.g., DHA) than people who are not depressed. Low levels of the other omega-3 fatty acid from fish, EPA, have correlated with increased severity of depression. In a double-blind trial, people with manic depression were given a very high intake of supplemental omega-3 fatty acids (enough fish oil to contain 9.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day) for four months.
The Natural Pharmacy: Complete A-Z Reference to Natural Treatments for Common Health Conditions by Alan R. Gaby, M.D., Jonathan V. Wright, M.D., Forrest Batz, Pharm.D. Rick Chester, RPh., N.D., DipLAc. George Constantine, R.Ph., Ph.D. Linnea D. Thompson, Pharm.D., N.D.

As Omega-3 fatty acid levels fall, rates of depression increase. In countries where fish is consumed frequently, Omega-3 fatty acid levels are high and rates of depression are low, even in areas of the world that don’t get much sunlight. Note these “fat facts” as they relate to the brain: Depression has been linked to low levels of a fatty acid called phos-phatidylserine. A number of studies have made the correlation between depression and low levels of cholesterol.
The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children by Carol Simontacchi

The high prevalence of depression in patients with coronary artery disease, alcoholism, multiple sclerosis, and postpartum depression might be linked by low concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in nerve membranes,” explains Dr. Hibbeln. “We’re suggesting that deficient levels of the omega-3s in the nervous system may increase the vulnerability to depression, just as a deficient level in the circulation may increase vulnerability to heart disease.” It’s also possible that fat affects mood by regulating serotonin.
Food & Mood: The Complete Guide to Eating Well and Feeling Your Best, Second Edition by Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D.

According to an article in Preventative Medicine, “Growing evidence likewise suggests a role for omega-3 fatty acids in helping to relieve disabling depression. Fatty acids may provide relief for people of all ages and genders who are afflicted by depression” (2006 January, pp. 4-13). In fact, one specific study reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry (June 1, 2006, pp. 1098-1100), reported that “childrenwith depression benefit from omega-3supplementation.”
Antidepressants, Antipsychotics, And Stimulants – Dangerous Drugs on Trial by Dr David W Tanton, Ph.D.

This relative deficiency of omega-3 fats has potentially serious implications. Also, the consumption of too much omega-6 fat leads to high levels of arachidonic acid (AA). Higher levels of arachidonic acid can promote inflammation. When we have insufficient omega-3 fat, we do not produce enough DHA, a long-chain omega-3 fat with anti-inflammatory effects. High levels of arachidonic acid and low levels of omega-3 fats can be a contributory cause of heart disease, stroke, autoimmune diseases, skin diseases, depression, and possibly increased cancer incidence.
Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss by Dr. Joel Fuhrman

In fact, there is a sixty-fold difference in depression rates across countries from the highest (Japan and Taiwan) to the lowest (North America, Europe, and New Zealand) omega-3 fat consumption. Even postpartum depression decreases as women increase their consumption of fish. Many people also report a drop in mood when they switch too quickly to a low-fat diet. In addition, serious depression is seen in up to 70 percent of alcoholics. Studies on animals demonstrate that long-term alcohol consumption depletes omega-3 fatty acids in nerve tissue, but this is reversed after prolonged abstinence.
Food & Mood: The Complete Guide to Eating Well and Feeling Your Best, Second Edition by Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D.

A low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids may contribute to or worsen asthma symptoms symptoms, most likely due to increased inflammation. The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids has been shown to be low in asthma sufferers. Supplements may be useful in relieving symptoms in some asthmatics, although not all studies have shown beneficial effects. Recent research suggests that omega-3 fatty acid deficiency may also be linked to depression and aggression.
The New Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements and Herbs by Nicola Reavley

Omega-3 fatty acids, powerful weapons in the fight against heart disease, may also help you win the battle against depression. Research shows that in countries where people eat a lot of fish, a good source of omega-3s, the incidence of depression is low. In one study, Japanese students who took a daily fish oil supplement for three months were less hostile and aggressive than their peers. Some experts warn that there are too many other cultural differences to be absolutely sure fish are helping to ward off depression. In the meantime, eating more fish can’t hurt.
Natural Cures and Gentle Medicines: That Work Better Than Dangerous Drugs or Risky Surgery by Frank K. Wood

One hundred grams of fresh purslane leaves (about 1 cup) can contain up to 300 to 400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid, the same omega-3 found in flaxseed. Purslane also contains small amounts of the longer-chain omega-3s (DHA and EPA), which are rarely found in anything but fish and fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy fats that have been found beneficial in hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and depression. The more omega-3s we eat, the better!
The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth About What You Should Eat and Why by Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.

Scientists don’t know exactly how omega3’s protect against depression, but they do know that the fats are important to health of neurons, or brain cells. To get sufficient omega-3’s to battle depression, Dr. Zuess recommends taking approximately 10 grams a day of DHA and EPA, which usually amounts to about 30 fish-oil capsules daily. Take them in divided doses with meals. This remedy is safe for long-term use.
Alternative Cures: The Most Effective Natural Home Remedies for 160 Health Problems by Bill Gottlieb

Omega-3 fatty acids also aid in the prevention of emotional disorders, and a deficiency can contribute to severe depression. The brain is the top source of fatty acids in the body body, and it requires the omega-3s for optimal functioning. Add one or two tablespoons of flax seed oil to green leafy vegetable salads to get the full complement of daily omega-3 fatty acids.
Food Swings: Make the Life-Changing Connection Between the Foods You Eat and Your Emotional Health and Well-Being by Barnet Meltzer, M.D.

Stoll suggests the omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil may slow down neurons in your brain, much like the drug Lithium, which is used to treat manic depression. Another research group from England noticed depressed people had less omega-3 fatty acids in their red blood cells than healthy people. The more severe the depression, the less omega-3. There is even evidence that EPA can help treat people with schizophrenia, a serious mental illness that can cause delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized behavior.
Eat and Heal (Foods That Can Prevent or Cure Many Common Ailments) by the Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing

The part of the brain that Omega-3 effects is the learning ability, anxiety/ depression, and auditory and visual perception. The Omega-3 fats also aid in balancing the autoimmune system, and there seem to be a growing number of children with allergies, colic, and skin problems. There are also indications that Omega-3 fats play an ongoing role in brain function, healthy immune system function, and general growth throughout childhood and adolescence. One study revealed that Omega-3 supplementation induced catch-up growth in a deficient, underdeveloped seven-year-old.

Make the Hangover go away with Cerebrafil

Your Brain on Alcohol: How Can You Make A Hangover Go Away

Has last night’s delight turned into this morning’s demon? How can alcohol, a simple molecule composed of only a few natural elements, create the havoc of a hangover? Most important, how can you make the hangover go away. 

Alcohol’s very simplicity (carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen) accounts for its unmatched affinity for the brain and its broad range of negative effects. A hangover is basically a milder version of the withdrawal symptoms suffered by alcoholics. It can persist for 24 hours or more.

You may just feel a bit irritable and overly sensitive, fatigued or muddled. Your muscles might ache or even tremor. You could have a mild or a killer headache. Your stomach could be upset or you could become nauseous. Worst case scenario: a person who passes out from nausea can die of asphyxiation.

One thing for sure, you will be dehydrated after drinking alcohol.  The cure for a hangover is plenty of water and Cerebrafil.  You may avoid a hangover altogether by consuming DHA as a pure Triglyceride prior to consuming alcohol.

Alcohol and Brain Fats
Alcohol decreases levels of DHA in the brain, a specialized fatty acid essential to healthy brain cell membranes, which are rich in DHA. According to research by Dr. R.J. Pawlosky at the National Institutes of Health, alcohol not only appears to dissolve the DHA already in the brain’s membranes, it also blocks the enzyme that manufactures DHA from dietary fats. This is not good, because lower concentrations of DHA in the nervous system are associated with a loss of nervous system function. 

This same enzyme (D6D) blocked by alcohol is also responsible for manufacturing gamma linolenic acid (GLA) which in turn makes the crucial anti-inflammatory PGE1 prostaglandins. When PGE1 levels are low, the inflammatory prostaglandin PGE2 dominates — which is often the norm today and why so many people need to take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. (D6D is also inhibited by stress, aging, trans fatty acids, viruses, and common medications.)

Water Works
The fundamental cure for a hangover is time and rest, plus plenty of pure water. Drinking alcohol upsets the body’s fluid balance as far more water is lost than taken in. When the brain becomes dehydrated, its outer covering (dura matter) can temporarily shrink and cause the painful sensation of a headache. Alcoholics can have shrunken internal areas of the brain.

Marrku Linnoila, a researcher at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, thinks the loss of electrolytes may contribute to hangover symptoms. He suggests replacing these electrolytes with a nightcap of one of the sports drinks that contain fresh supplies of sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as well as water.

Bull’s Eye
There are some nutritional approaches that can intervene to prevent or diminish your hangover. If traditional folk remedies and modern hangover formulas work, it’s because they support the body’s natural alcohol detoxification process.

A classic remedy for hangover called the Bull’s Eye is simply a glass of orange juice containing a raw egg. (Warning: raw eggs may contain salmonella, so use soft-boiled ones.) The juice supplies vitamin C and fructose; the egg is especially high in the sulfur-containing amino acids, cysteine and taurine.

Your liver needs cysteine to detoxify acetaldehyde, the first byproduct of its breakdown of alcohol. Acetaldehyde is approximately 30 times more toxic than alcohol. Used in the manufacture of adhesives and plastics, it is a close chemical cousin of formaldehyde. (Did somebody say embalming fluid?)

A powerful free radical generator, acetaldehyde is a potent neurotoxin that crosses your blood-brain barrier and is the primary culprit in a hangover. Acetaldehyde causes inflammation and depression, and interferes with energy production in the brain. It disrupts cellular function through its reactive tendency to cross-link molecules. (A good example of cross-linked tissue is the leathery skin of elderly alcoholics who spend a lot of time outdoors).

While the liver quickly converts the ethyl alcohol you drink into acetaldehyde, it is much slower at converting the acetaldehyde into acetic acid (which eventually is broken down into carbon dioxide and water). One of the biggest factors in a person’s susceptibility to alcohol damage is their enzymatic ability to detoxify acetaldehyde. The longer acetaldehyde remains in the body, the worse the hangover. Furthermore, enzyme activity and liver function tend to diminish with age, disease, poor nutrition, and alcoholism.

Nutrients that Counteract Acetaldehyde
Important research on acetaldehyde was done in the 1970s at the National Cancer Institute by Herbert Sprince, M.D. When he pretreated rats with large doses of vitamin B1, vitamin C, and cysteine, they were able to survive a normally lethal dose of acetaldehyde.

Cysteine is available in supplement form, but to be effective it needs plenty of vitamin C. Steven Wm. Fowkes, editor of Smart Drug News, has found a combination that he says works remarkably well. “I use capsules (because they dissolve fast) containing 200 mg cysteine plus 600 mg of vitamin C (with or without extra B-1). I take one before I start drinking, one with each additional drink and one when IЖm finished.” (Vitamin E and selenium also support cysteine’s action.)

Your liver also needs cysteine (plus glutamic acid and glycine) to make glutathione, a crucial protective compound whose deficiency first affects the nervous system, causing hangover-like symptoms.

Taurine is another important amino acid that may help hangovers. Your liver makes taurine from cysteine, but because the cysteine is busy detoxing acetaldehyde, taurine may be in short supply. Taurine is an antioxidant and has a protective effect on the brain, particularly when the brain is dehydrated.

Taurine is used to counteract anxiety, hyperactivity, and even to treat seizures. It helps calm overexcited brain cells that are withdrawing from the effects of excess alcohol. Studies show that taurine levels naturally increase in the brain in response to both acute and chronic exposure to ethanol.

Do B Do B Do
Acetaldehyde rapidly destroys vitamin B1, thiamine. Originally known as the nerve vitamin, thiamine is crucial to brain function. Poor nutrition combined with a chronic B1 deficiency induced by excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to a condition known as Korsakoff’s psychosis, which involves memory loss similar to Alzheimer’s disease.

Durk Pearson at Life Enhancement tells how, when vitamin B1 became available in an injectable form earlier this century, interns discovered they could treat a hangover by injecting large doses of it.

Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) aids the body in alcohol detoxification. Known as the anti-stress vitamin, B5 can become depleted in the detoxification of acetaldehyde. A deficiency of pantothenic acid may contribute to the hangover symptoms of headache, nausea, and fatigue.

All the B vitamins need regular replenishing — more so after drinking alcohol. Try taking a B-complex before, during, and as soon after a drinking session as possible. The same goes with vitamin C, which is perhaps why tomatoes are a common ingredient in many hangover remedies. Tomatoes are high in B vitamins and in vitamin C, the body’s primary antioxidant nutrient.

An Oxidant Waiting to Happen
After alcohol turns to acetaldehyde, the production of free radicals increases. These highly reactive forms of oxygen damage the structural fats that give your brain cell membranes their strength and fluidity. Brain function is compromised depending on how much alcohol is consumed as well as for how long one has been a drinker.

To combat the destructive action of free radical oxidants, your brain must have an ample supply of antioxidants. Basically, antioxidants are chemicals that oxygen finds more attractive than the structural components of your cells. Antioxidants sacrifice themselves to preserve your body parts.

In addition to their vitamin C content, orange juice and tomato juice also contain a good dose of potassium, a mineral that is lost during urination when drinking. Low levels of potassium can contribute to feelings of weakness and shakiness. This may be the basis of a Chinese folk remedy for hangovers that says to boil a couple of banana peels in water and drink the liquid.

Folk Remedies Fight Free Radicals
Perhaps vitamin C has something to do with the Ayurvedic remedy of drinking fresh orange with a teaspoon of lime juice and a pinch of cumin stirred in . . . or the Puerto Rican folk remedy for hangovers that recommends rubbing a quarter lemon into each armpit. Chinese remedies include drinking fresh mandarin orange or tangerine juice.

Another Chinese folk cure is to eat 8 to 10 fresh strawberries, all at once. In addition to vitamin C and minerals, strawberries contain significant amounts of another antioxidant, lycopene.

Tomatoes are also very high in lycopene, the protective plant compound that gives them their distinctive red color. A French study found that alcoholic men had significantly lower concentrations of lycopene and other carotenoids in their blood than men who consumed low or moderate amounts of alcohol.

Prostaglandin Pressures and Pleasures
Supplements of preformed GLA may help increase levels of PGE1, which can alleviate hangover symptoms associated with inflammation and swelling, such as headache and aching muscles — even depression. In a Scottish study, GLA supplements dramatically reversed depression in certain alcoholics (Celtic, Scandinavian, Scottish, Welsh, American Indian). Again, it’s genetic racial factors that affect enzyme activity and account for the inability of some people to withstand alcohol while others seem impervious to it.

It’s interesting to note that the reason why a first drink may feel good is because alcohol has the ability to briefly activate the tiny levels of PGE1 that exist within the brain. This provides a welcome temporary relief from depression, but soon leads to a crash when the PGE1 reserve is depleted.

GLA is available in capsules of evening primrose oil. DHA is available in capsules of oil derived from fish or microalgae.

Honey, Please Pass the Blood Sugar
In an informative 1998 report, Jim Roberts describes an 18th century hangover recipe which instructs “the afflicted to suck on a sugar cube containing drops of clove oil, then chew on a sprig of parsley, followed by a cup of chamomile tea (sweetened with honey), followed by teaspoons of honey every half-hour for two to three hours. Clove was considered a painkiller back then, and parsley and chamomile were thought to soothe the stomach muscles.” Parsley is also a good source of vitamin C.

Honey and fruit juices are common ingredients in hangover remedies, probably because they raise low blood sugar (glucose) levels and relieve hypoglycemia. Alcohol depletes the glucose reserves in the liver (stored as glycogen), so the brain is deprived of glucose and hence the energy it needs for normal functioning.

Low blood sugar may account for hangover symptoms of lethargy. Also when alcohol breaks down, acidic byproducts can build up in the blood and cause muscular weakness. Ian Calder, an anaesthetist at London’s National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, says that both problems can be remedied by consuming extra sugar.

Magnesium Calms the Jitters
Acetaldehyde causes magnesium to be flushed out through the kidneys. Low levels of magnesium can cause nerves to fire too easily — even from minor stimuli. This can result in jangled nerves and a hypersensitive brain where even mild noises sound excessively loud, lights seem too bright, and emotional reactions are exaggerated.

An extreme case of alcohol-induced magnesium deficiency is delirium tremens, a life-threatening effect of withdrawal that is a medical emergency. It is characterized by sweating, shaking, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, agitation, and disturbances of memory. Emergency room treatment for the d.t.’s includes injections of magnesium sulfate.

Fifty Ways to Love Your Liver
Because your liver is the organ responsible for detoxifying alcohol, its health is paramount. Basically, it needs all known vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, including special nutrients such as lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC).

In addition, certain phytonutrients found in plants seem to promote or even repair liver function. These include milk thistle (silymarin), dandelion root, and turmeric (curcumin). Siberian ginseng supports the liver and is associated with people remaining alcohol-free after going through rehabilitation. For next day hangover relief, some swear by a shot of liquid ginseng chased by a tumbler of water.

Other Hangover Remedies
Some people use aromatherapy to clear their head or inhale apple-scented oxygen at one of the new “oxygen bars” that are cropping up in major cities. Others consume a few charcoal tablets as a remedy for hangovers, which is similar to a 19th century practice by chimney sweeps who drank warm milk with a teaspoon of soot. Nux vomica is the classic homeopathic remedy for people who feel woozy or nauseous after drinking too much alcohol.

A Promising Plant is Knocking at Our Door
Kudzu is a plant that’s best known in the United States because it has been spreading unchecked throughout the South. But in China, an extract from this edible vine has long been used to treat headaches and hangovers. The Japanese make a hangover remedy tea with equal parts of kudzu root, umeboshi plum, and fresh ginger root.

A 1993 Harvard study found that alcohol-craving hamsters treated with kudzu extracts rapidly lost their appetite for alcohol and voluntarily cut their consumption by 50%. Animal studies done in 1996 at the Indiana University School of Medicine showed that daidzin, an isoflavonoid extracted from kudzu (Pueraria lobata), lowering blood alcohol levels. Daidzin and two other compounds from the plant also were effective in suppressing voluntary alcohol consumption by the rats.

Modern Formulations Put It All Together
A well-nutrified body is a good start, but taking extra nutrients before, during, and after a drinking session is usually necessary if you want to prevent or minimize a hangover. To sum it up, some key nutrients include: vitamin C, B-complex (with extra B1 and B5), magnesium, cysteine, taurine, lycopene, GLA, DHA, and kudzu.

Other nutrients include Siberian ginseng, MSM (a good source of bioavailable sulfur), and NAC (a stable form of cysteine and precursor to glutathione). GABA is an amino acid that acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter and keeps nerve cells from over firing. It may also be of value to help calm the hypersensitivity associated with a hangover.

Perhaps the two most comprehensive anti-hangover formulas available today are Source Naturals Hangover Formula™ and Life Enhancement’s Party Pill II™. They combine many of the above nutrients plus a broad range of supporting ones.

Some Basic Preventative Measures
If you take some preventive measures before and during your drinking episodes, you have the best chance of minimizing the symptoms of a hangover.

  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Fatty protein foods such as cheese or cold cuts absorb alcohol the best and will slow down the rate at which it enters your bloodstream.
  • Drink slowly. At best, your liver can only break down about one ounce of alcohol per hour.
  • Be aware that champagne and carbonated mixed drinks will accelerate the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream.
  • Know your limit and the effects of different kinds of alcohol. Darker drinks such as red wine, brandy, and port are higher in “congeners,” ingredients that tend to worsen hangovers.
  • To ward off dehydration, drink plenty of pure water during and after alcohol use, including during the night when you wake. (Coffee is not advised because it contributes to dehydration.)
  • Don’t try to cure your hangover with more alcohol (“hair of the dog”).

WARNING — Before and While You Drink:
Never take Tylenol (acetaminophen). Combined with alcohol, it can cause severe liver damage. Also, don’t take aspirin, because it will make you drunker.

Regarding the use of over-the-counter pain medication, the Mayo Clinic advised in their Dec. 1997 Health Letter: “Acetaminophen [Tylenol] or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, may help relieve your headache. However, they’re not risk-free. NSAIDS, when combined with alcohol, may irritate your stomach. And excessive doses of acetaminophen can be toxic to your liver, particularly when combined with alcohol.”

Final Notes
Alcohol temporarily deactivates the protective capabilities of your blood-brain barrier, making your brain more vulnerable to toxic substances, most of which cause free radical damage which can kill brain cells. What’s more, several studies conducted since the 1980s suggest that ethanol accentuates the damage caused by lead and aluminum in the brain.

Alcohol triggers the release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands. Current research is shedding light on the real dangers these hormones do to memory and longevity. Click here for more information about the effects of stress on brain health and fitness. (And, click here to learn about ways to activate your relaxation response.)

Sprince, H., et al., “Protectants against acetaldehyde toxicity: Sulfhydryl compounds and ascorbic acid.” Fed Proc 33(3) (Part 1): March 1974. Sprince, H., et al., Agents and Actions 5(2): 164-73, 1975. Sprince, H., et al., Intl J Vit Nutr Res 47 (Supplement 1G): 185-212, 1977.
De Witte, P., et al., “Acute and chronic alcohol injections increase taurine in the nucleus accumbens.” Alcohol Alcohol Suppl 1994;2:229-33.
Dahchour, A., et al., “Taurine increases in the nucleus accumbens microdialysate after acute ethanol administration to naive and chronically alcoholised rats.” Brain Res 1996 Sep 30;735(1):9-19
Montoliu, C., et al, “Ethanol-induced oxygen radical formation and lipid peroxidation in rat brain: effect of chronic alcohol consumption.” J Neurochem, 63(5):1855-62 1994 Nov
Lecomte, E,. et al., “The relation of alcohol consumption to serum carotenoid and retinol levels. Effects of withdrawal.” Int J Vitam Nutr Res 1994;64(3):170-5
Pawlosky, R.J., et al., “Ethanol exposure causes a decrease in docosahexaenoic acid and an increase in docosapentaenoic acid in feline brains and retinas.” Am J Clin Nutr 1995;61:1284-89
Lin, R.C., et al., “Isoflavonoid compounds extracted from Pueraria lobata suppress alcohol preference in a pharmacogenetic rat model of alcoholism.” Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 20(4):659-63 1996 Jun
Mathews-Larson, Joan, “An End to the Revolving Door.” Addiction & Recovery, June 1990
“Drunk as a Skunk,” New Scientist, Dec. 20, 1997
Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw, “Why Not Party-Proof Yourself This Summer?” Life Enhancement, June 1998
Fowkes, S.W., “Living with Alcohol,” Smart Drug News, Dec. 13, 1996


Cultural Background Impacts Thoughts About Death

A new study to be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science shows how culture can influence how people respond to mortality.

In particular, investigators found European-Americans confronted with thoughts of death are likely to try to protect their sense of self, while Asian-Americans are more likely to reach out to others. Psychologists label the topic of thinking about death as “mortality salience;” much of the research has been performed on people of European descent. In their studies, scientists have learned that “mortality salience” appears to cause people to think in dramatic ways. For example, “Men become more wary of sexy women and they like wholesome women more. People like to stereotype more. You see all these strange and bizarre occurrences when people think about the fact that they aren’t going to live forever,” said researcher Christine Ma-Kellams, a doctoral student at the University of California Santa Barbara. Researchers say another interesting observation is that people try to protect their sense of self, by putting down people who aren’t like them or distancing themselves from innocent victims. But, as a cultural psychologist, Ma wondered if this reaction might be different in other cultures. In particular, she wanted to look at people of Asian backgrounds, whose sense of self is generally more linked to people around them. Ma-Kellams recruited both European-Americans and Asian-Americans for the study. Each person was told to either write down thoughts that come to mind when thinking about their own death – or to write down their thoughts about dental pain. (Those people were the control group.) Then they were asked to decide what bail should be set for a prostitute and given a survey on their attitudes toward prostitution. As other research has found, European-American people who had thought about death were much harsher towards the prostitute than those in the control group. But Asian-Americans who thought about death were much kinder toward the prostitute – even though they started out more conservative. In a second experiment, participants were presented with a less extreme case, a story about a university employee who’d been injured in an accident through no fault of his own. The same result was found; European-Americans were more likely to blame him if they’d contemplated their own mortality, while Asian-Americans were less likely to blame him. This aligns with research that finds that European-Americans and Asian-Americans think about the self very differently. “For European-Americans, everyone wants to save themselves after thinking about death because loss of self is the worst possible consequence,” Ma-Kellams said. “Asians don’t necessarily see themselves in that individualistic kind of way. Self is very much tied up with the people around you.” In this case, that means that when they’re threatened with their own mortality, Asian-Americans apparently reach out to other people. Source: Association for Psychological Science

Social Cues Are Difficult for People with Schizophrenia

Social Cues Are Difficult for People with Schizophrenia New research finds that impairment in a brain area make it difficult for people with schizophrenia to understand the nonverbal actions of others. “Misunderstanding social situations and interactions are core deficits in schizophrenia,” said psychologist Dr. Sohee Park of Vanderbilt University. “Our findings may help explain the origins of some of the delusions involving perception and thoughts experienced by those with schizophrenia.” Researchers found that a particular brain area, the posterior superior temporal sulcus or STS, appears to be implicated in this deficit. “Using brain imaging together with perceptual testing, we found that a brain area in a neural network involved in perception of social stimuli responds abnormally in individuals with schizophrenia,” said co-author Randolph Blake, Ph.D. “We found this brain area fails to distinguish genuine biological motion from highly distorted versions of that motion.” “We have found… that people with schizophrenia tend to ‘see’ living things in randomness and this subjective experience is correlated with an increased activity in the (posterior) STS,” the authors wrote. “In the case of biological motion perception, these self-generated, false impressions of meaning can have negative social consequences, in that schizophrenia patients may misconstrue the actions or intentions of other people.” In their experiments, the researchers compared the performance of people with schizophrenia to that of healthy controls on two visual tasks. One task involved deciding whether or not an animated series of lights depicted the movements of an actor’s body. The second task entailed judging subtle differences in the actions depicted by two similar animations viewed side by side. On both tasks, people with schizophrenia performed less well than the healthy controls. Next, the researchers measured brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while the subjects—healthy controls and schizophrenia patients—performed a version of the side-by-side task. Once again, the individuals with schizophrenia performed worse on the task. The researchers were then able to correlate those performance deficits with the brain activity in each person. Researchers do not yet understand this specific brain area in schizophrenia patients fails to differentiate normal human activity from non-human motion. They speculate that this abnormal brain activation contributes to the patients’ difficulties reading social cues in the actions of others. Their findings are published in the journal PLoS ONE. Source: Vanderbilt University

Postural Problems a Sign of Bipolar Illness?

Postural Problems a Sign of Bipolar Illness?Although motor deficits often accompany a mood or psychiatric disorder, most researchers have not targeted motor areas as a method to improve mental health. In a new study, researchers at Indiana University suggests that postural control problems may be a core feature of bipolar disorder, not just a random symptom. The investigators believe attention to the postural problems can provide insights both into areas of the brain affected by the psychiatric disorder and new potential targets for treatment. Bipolar disorder is a severe psychiatric disorder characterized by extreme, debilitating mood swings and unusual shifts in a person’s energy and ability to function. Balance, postural control and other motor control issues are frequently experienced by people with mood and psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and neurological disorders such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease. In this study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers surmised that problems with postural control — maintaining balance while holding oneself upright — are a core component of bipolar disorder. As such, the researchers believe it is possible that the motor abnormalities could appear before other symptoms, signaling an increased risk for the disorder. According, researchers wanted to know if therapies that improve motor symptoms may also help mood disorders. “For a number of psychological disorders, many different psychiatric treatments and therapies have been tried, with marginal effects over the long term. Researchers are really starting to look at new targets,” said Amanda Bolbecker, Ph.D., lead author of the study. “Our study suggests that brain areas traditionally believed to be responsible for motor behavior might represent therapeutic targets for bipolar disorder.” The link between motor and mental is not as distant as some would believe. For example, try as we might, humans cannot stand perfectly still. “Instead, we make small adjustments at our hips and ankles based on what our eyes, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and semi-circular canals tells us,” said S. Lee Hong, Ph.D., a study co-author. “The better these sensory sources are integrated, the less someone sways.” Areas of the brain that are critical for motor control, mainly the cerebellum, basal ganglia and brain stem, also aid in mood regulation and are areas where abnormalities often are found in people with bipolar disorder. Postural sway — a measure of the endless adjustments people make in an attempt to stand still — is considered a sensitive gauge of motor control that likely is affected by these abnormalities. In the study, participants who had bipolar disorder displayed more postural sway, particularly when their eyes were closed, than study participants who had no psychological disorders. The troubles, which involved the study participants’ proprioception, or ability to process non-visual sensory information related to balance, were not affected by their mood or the severity of their disorder. “It appears that people with bipolar disorder process sensory information differently and this is seen in their inability to adapt their movement patterns to different conditions, such as eyes open vs. eyes closed or feet together vs. feet apart,” said Hong, whose research focuses on how humans control motion. “The different conditions will cause people to use the information their senses provide differently, in order to allow them to maintain their balance.” Additional research is called for as investigations involving motor control, mood and psychiatric disorders are complicated by the fact that the primary treatment for these disorders is medication, which can have severe side effects including motor control problems. Source: Indiana University

Brooding, Proud Guys Score High on Sex Appeal

Brooding, Proudl Guys Score High on Sex Appeal We are all familiar with media advertisements in which sullen looking men, often accompanied by a beautiful women, project an aura of sexuality and decadence. The ‘picture’ sells the product, whatever the product may be. The perceptions created by the ads may be accurate as investigators discover women find happy guys significantly less sexually attractive than swaggering or brooding men. University of British Columbia researchers say the findings may help explain the enduring allure of “bad boys” and other iconic gender types. The study — which may cause men to smile less on dates, and inspire online daters to update their profile photos — finds dramatic gender differences in how men and women rank the sexual attractiveness of non-verbal expressions of commonly displayed emotions, including happiness, pride, and shame. Authors point out that very few studies have explored the relationship between emotions and attraction, and this is the first to report a significant gender difference in the attractiveness of smiles. Another key contribution of this study is the unique inquiry into the attractiveness associated with displays of pride and shame. The study is published online in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion. “While showing a happy face is considered essential to friendly social interactions, including those involving sexual attraction – few studies have actually examined whether a smile is, in fact, attractive,” said psychologist Dr. Jessica Tracy. “This study finds that men and women respond very differently to displays of emotion, including smiles.” In a series of studies, more than 1,000 adult participants rated the sexual attractiveness of hundreds of images of the opposite sex engaged in universal displays of happiness (broad smiles), pride (raised heads, puffed-up chests) and shame (lowered heads, averted eyes). The study found that women were least attracted to smiling, happy men, preferring those who looked proud and powerful or moody and ashamed. In contrast, male participants were most sexually attracted to women who looked happy, and least attracted to women who appeared proud and confident. “It is important to remember that this study explored first impressions of sexual attraction to images of the opposite sex,” said Alec Beall, a UBC psychology graduate student and study co-author. “We were not asking participants if they thought these targets would make a good boyfriend or wife – we wanted their gut reactions on carnal, sexual attraction.” He said previous studies have found positive emotional traits and a nice personality to be highly desirable in a relationship partners. Tracy and Beall said that other studies suggest that what people find attractive has been shaped by centuries of evolutionary and cultural forces. For example, evolutionary theories suggest females are attracted to male displays of pride because they imply status, competence and an ability to provide for a partner and offspring. According to Beall, the pride expression accentuates typically masculine physical features, such as upper body size and muscularity. “Previous research has shown that these features are among the most attractive male physical characteristics, as judged by women,” he said. The researchers say more work is needed to understand the differing responses to happiness, but suggest the phenomenon can also be understood according to principles of evolutionary psychology, as well as socio-cultural gender norms. For example, past research has associated smiling with a lack of dominance, which is consistent with traditional gender norms of the “submissive and vulnerable” woman, but inconsistent with “strong, silent” man, the researchers said. “Previous research has also suggested that happiness is a particularly feminine-appearing expression,” Beall added. “Generally, the results appear to reflect some very traditional gender norms and cultural values that have emerged, developed and been reinforced through history, at least in Western cultures,” Tracy said. “These include norms and values that many would consider old-fashioned and perhaps hoped that we’ve moved beyond.” Displays of shame, Tracy said, have been associated with an awareness of social norms and appeasement behaviors, which elicits trust in others. This may explain shame’s surprising attractiveness to both genders, she said, given that both men and women prefer a partner they can trust. While this study focused on sexual attraction between heterosexual men and women in North America, the researchers say future studies will be required to explore the relationship between emotions and sexual attractiveness among homosexuals and non-Western cultures. Overall, the researchers found that men ranked women more attractive than women ranked men. Source: University of British Columbia

Disaster Plans Should Include Those with Mental Illness

Disaster Plans Should Include Those with Mental IllnessWhen disaster strikes — whether a deadly supercell tornado, a flood, or man-made catastrophe — it is not just those with physical injuries and trauma-related disorders who suffer. Johns Hopkins University researchers say more attention should be devoted to triaging and managing those identified as having mental disorders. In a commentary appearing in the June issue of the journal Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, Peter Rabins, M.D., M.P.H., said, “Disasters limit the availability of resources, and these groups are especially vulnerable because they cannot advocate for themselves. “But little attention has been given to the ethical challenges that arise when resources are limited, to the importance of identifying these ethical issues ahead of time, and for establishing mechanisms to address these moral dilemmas.” The researchers said disaster-response planning has generally overlooked the special needs of people who suffer from pre-existing and serious mental conditions. Disaster survivors can include those diagnosed with conditions such as schizophrenia, dementia, addictions and bipolar disorder. In the article, Rabins and Nancy Kass, Sc.D., said many of the mentally ill are dependent on caretakers and aren’t fully capable of making sound decisions on their own. Emergency planners are ethically obligated to ensure that immediate and adequate mental health services are provided alongside more traditional triage. “Disaster-response managers and those on the front line are well aware that survivors may succumb to PTSD and other mental disorders,” said Rabins. “But sudden devastation also puts people with both lifelong and acquired intellectual disabilities in grave danger as well.” One study the authors cited found that 22 percent of Hurricane Katrina survivors who had pre-existing mental disorders faced limited or terminated treatment after the disaster. Beyond patients with dementia and others who are mentally impaired, the authors say that this vulnerable group includes those who suffer from chronic pain and may be dependent on opiates, as well as substance abusers who receive treatment in the form of powerful sedatives classified as benzodiazepines. Withdrawal from these medications can be life threatening, the authors noted. As a first step, the authors recommend that disaster-response planners proactively identify and anticipate what needs might arise by meeting with clinicians and public health officials. Those discussions would then guide comprehensive advance planning. As licensed professionals are often unavailable (because of demand) immediately after a disaster, planners should consider training emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and other first-responders to identify those with pre-existing mental conditions and recognize those in need of prompt attention. The training should include volunteers from the community, such as religious leaders and trained civilians, to distribute basic materials and temporary services to at-risk individuals. In an effort to reduce adverse outcomes, the researchers advise that secondary prevention measures may take priority. This action could be in the form of EMTs distributing sedatives to manage short-term anxiety-related symptoms. But the authors say that policies would need to be developed to expand the list of those authorized to prescribe such drugs, as they are at present strictly regulated by federal law. The authors note that sedatives were distributed in New York City immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They also recommend that planners focus on ethical challenges likely to arise when assisting the mentally disabled during and after a disaster. These challenges may be partially addressed by adopting a “crisis standard of care” consistent with guidelines from the Institute of Medicine. Special attention should be given to assisted-living and long-term care facilities that house many residents with significant cognitive impairment, such as dementia. If these people are forced to evacuate, they may not fully comprehend the crisis and may be at risk for extreme emotional distress. Hence, disaster-preparedness training for first-responders should also include information about how to interact with such individuals in a way that respects their dignity, the authors said. Source: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

Does Computer Use Undermine Reading Skills?

Does Computer Use Undermine Reading Skills?A provocative new study suggests increased leisure use of computers by children leads to poorer reading ability. Swedish researchers said this effect is being played out in both Sweden and the United States. Monica Rosén, Ph.D., of the University of Gothenburg, analyzed differences between different countries over time in order to explain change in reading achievement among 9- to 10-year olds. Rosén and her colleagues have studied how pupils’ reading skills have changed since 1970 in Hungary, Italy, the U.S. and Sweden. Reading ability has improved steadily in Italy and Hungary, while it has fallen rapidly since 1991 in both the U.S. and Sweden. During this period, many factors within the school system have changed, as as society in general and the after-school activities of children in particular. The Swedish and American pupils described a large increase in the use of computers in their free time during this period, while a similar increase was not reported in Hungary or Italy. “Our study shows that the entry of computers into the home has contributed to changing children’s habits in such a manner that their reading does not develop to the same extent as previously,” Rosén said. “By comparing countries over time we can see a negative correlation between change in reading achievement and change in spare time computer habits which indicates that reading ability falls as leisure use of computers increases.” Researchers also found the frequency of leisure reading and the number of leisure books borrowed from the library have both fallen as computer use in the home has increased. Thus, it is not the computers in themselves or the activities they are used for that impair reading skills, but rather that computers have stolen time from leisure reading. According to the researchers, the new computer habits do not promote the development of reading ability in the same way as leisure reading of books does. Reading of printed media has fallen also among adults. In many homes, especially among younger adults, researchers say it is uncommon for an individual to sit down and read. “We have shown that the poorer results are principally caused by a fall in the skills of those from the center of the ability range and upwards. It is not that case that there are more less-gifted readers or that the skills of these readers have become poorer. What has happened is that there are fewer high-performing children,” Rosén said. Rosén pointed out that it is very difficult to measure and compare reading skills over time. “It is important that we do not jump to the conclusion that the complete explanation for poorer reading is deficiencies in education,” she said. “On the contrary, the way in which computers undermine reading shows very clearly that leisure time is at least as important when it comes to developing high-quality reading skills.” Source: University of Gothenburg

More Americans Praying for Health Reasons

More Americans Praying for Health ReasonsResearchers have discovered a dramatic increase among American adults in the use of prayer for health issues. Investigators analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 1999, 2002 and 2007 National Health Interview Surveys and determined praying about health issues increased over the past three decades, rising 36 percent between 1999 and 2007. “The United States did have an increase in worship attendance across multiple religious faiths immediately after the 9/11 attack, but that has not stayed elevated. However, people continued to use informal and private spiritual practices such as prayer,” said lead author Amy Wachholtz, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “There is also a greater public awareness of Buddhist-based mindfulness practices that can include prayerful meditation, which individuals may also be using to address a variety of health concerns.” A change in health status, either a decline or an improvement, was linked with more reported prayer. This suggests prayer is used to cope with changing health status. While prayer about health issues increased across all groups, from 43 percent in 2002 to 49 percent in 2007, the data indicated that people with the highest incomes were 15 percent less likely to pray than those with the lowest incomes, and people who exercised regularly were 25 percent less likely to pray those who didn’t exercise. Women, African-Americans and the well-educated were most likely to pray about their health. “We’re seeing a wide variety of prayer use among people with good income and access to medical care,” Wachholtz said. “People are not exchanging health insurance for prayer.” A significantly greater proportion of women prayed compared to men, with 51 percent of women reporting prayer in 2002 and 56 percent in 2007, in contrast with 34 percent and 40 percent, respectively, among men. African-Americans were more likely to pray for their health than Caucasians, with 61 percent of African-Americans reporting having done so in 2002 and 67 percent in 2007, compared to 40 percent and 45 percent for Caucasians during the same periods. People who were married, educated beyond high school or had experienced a change in health for better or worse within the last 12 months were also more likely to pray about health concerns, the study found. The study, found in the APA journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, did not reveal the type of prayer people used, or which occurred first – prayer or the health issue. Source: American Psychological Association

Obsessive Fears Arise in Response to Compulsions in OCD

Obsessive Fears Arise in Response to Compulsions in OCDThe chicken-and-egg question regarding obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), for the most part, is usually answered by identifying obsessive fears as driving the behaviors such as repetitive hand-washing. A new study effectively reverses the order, finding that the repetitive behaviors themselves (the compulsions) might be the precursors to the disorder, and that obsessions may simply be the brain’s way of justifying these behaviors. New research suggests performance of repetitive behaviors may lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This interpretation goes against popular beliefs that behaviors  found that in the case of OCD the behaviors themselves (the compulsions) might be the precursors to the disorder, and that obsessions may simply be the brain’s way of justifying these behaviors. The study, conducted at the University of Cambridge and the University of Amsterdam, provides important insight into how the debilitating repetitive behavior of OCD develops and could lead to more effective treatments and preventative measures for the disorder. Funded by the Wellcome Trust and published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the study tested 20 patients suffering from the disorder and 20 control subjects (without OCD) on a task which looked at the tendency to develop habit-like behavior. Subjects were required to learn simple associations between stimuli, behaviors and outcomes in order to win points on a task. The team, led by Claire Gillan and Trevor Robbins at the University of Cambridge MRC/Wellcome Trust Behavioral and Clinical Neuroscience Institute and Sanne de Wit at the University of Amsterdam, found that patients suffering from the disorder had a tendency to continue to respond regardless of whether or not their behavior produced a desirable outcome. In other words, this behavior was habitual. The discovery that compulsive behavior – the irresistible urge to perform a task – can be observed in the laboratory, in the absence of any related obsessions, suggests that compulsions may be the critical feature of OCD. This finding is consistent with the recognition that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective treatment for OCD. In this therapy, patients are challenged to stop compulsive responding, and learn that the feared consequence does not occur, whether or not the behavior is performed. The effectiveness of this treatment is compatible with the idea that compulsions, and not obsessions, are critical in OCD. Once the compulsion is stopped, the obsession tends to fade away. “It has long been established that humans have a tendency to ‘fill in the gaps’ when it comes to behavior that cannot otherwise be logically explained,” said Claire Gillan, a Ph.D. student at the University of Cambridge. “In the case of OCD, the overwhelming urge to senselessly repeat a behavior might be enough to instill a very real obsessive fear in order to explain it.” Source: University of Cambridge
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