Diets lacking omega-3s lead to anxiety, hyperactivity in teens

Diets lacking omega-3 fatty acids -- found in foods like wild fish, eggs, and grass-fed livestock -- can have worsened effects over consecutive generations, especially affecting teens, according to a University of Pittsburgh study. Credit: University of Pittsburgh

Diets lacking omega-3 fatty acids—found in foods like wild fish, eggs, and grass-fed livestock—can have worsened effects over consecutive generations, especially affecting teens, according to a University of Pittsburgh study.

Published in Biological Psychiatry, the Pitt team found that in a second-generation deficiencies of omega-3s caused elevated states of anxiety and hyperactivity in adolescents and affected the teens' memory and cognition.

"We have always assumed that stress at this age is the main environmental insult that contributes to developing these conditions in at-risk individuals but this study indicates that nutrition is a big factor, too," said Bita Moghaddam, lead author of the paper and professor of neuroscience in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. "We found that this dietary deficiency can compromise the of adolescents, not only because their diet is deficient but because their parents' diet was deficient as well. This is of particular concern because adolescence is a very vulnerable time for developing including schizophrenia and addiction."Diets lacking —found in foods like , eggs, and grass-fed livestock—can have worsened effects over consecutive generations, especially affecting teens, according to a University of Pittsburgh study.

Diets lacking omega-3 fatty acids—found in foods like wild fish, eggs, and grass-fed livestock—can have worsened effects over consecutive generations, especially affecting teens, according to a University of Pittsburgh study.

Performing experiments in rats in Moghaddam's laboratory, the research team examined a "second generation" of omega-3-deficient diets, mimicking present-day adolescents. Parents of many of today's teens were born in the 1960s and 1970s, a time period in which omega-3-deficient oils like corn and soy oil became prevalent, and moved from eating grass to grain. Since omega-3s are present in grass and algae, much of today's grain-fed cattle contain less of these essential fatty acids.

The Pitt team administered a set of behavioral tasks to study the learning and memory, decision making, anxiety, and hyperactivity of both adults and adolescents. Although subjects appeared to be in general good physical health, there were behavioral deficiencies in adolescents that were more pronounced in second-generation subjects with omega-3 deficiencies. Overall, these adolescents were more anxious and hyperactive, learned at a slower rate, and had impaired problem-solving abilities.

"Our study shows that, while the omega-3 deficiency influences the behavior of both adults and , the nature of this influence is different between the age groups," said Moghaddam. "We observed changes in areas of the brain responsible for decision making and habit formation."

The team is now exploring epigenetics as a potential cause. This is a process in which environmental events influence genetic information. Likewise, the team is exploring markers of inflammation in the brain since omega-3 deficiencies causes an increase of omega-6 fats, which are proinflammatory molecules in the brain and other tissues.

"It's remarkable that a relatively common dietary change can have generational effects," said Moghaddam. "It indicates that our diet does not merely affect us in the short-term but also can affect our offspring."

More information: The paper is titled "Adolescent behavior and dopamine availability are uniquely sensitive to dietary omega-3 fatty acid deficiency."

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JVK
1 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2013
In my model, "...pheromones and nutrition could alter levels of maternal hormones, gestational events, and postnatal outcomes via their direct effect on maternal GnRH and the placenta. The outcomes might not always be positive, which means the possible effects should not be ignored. That would be like ignoring the likely effects of docosahexaenoic acid in the maternal and postnatal diet on LH and on neuronal development in the mammalian brain (Lassek & Gaulin, 2011).

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid. It is found in cold water fatty fish. It links climate change to diet change and adaptive evolution of a human population in what is now central China during the past ~30,000 years, and to the Aquatic Ape, Scented Ape and Naked Ape theories (sans mutations theory). See for example:
http://www.socioa...38/20758 and http://www.socioa...ew/20553