Episode 51

[transcript]
In Episode #51, Jesse speaks with Dr. Michael A. Crawford of Imperial College London about the role of seafood – and the essential fats they contain – in the evolution, development, and maintenance of our brains.  Dr. Crawford shares with us a “coastal evolution theory,” the importance of proper nutrition for brain-health, and how it is our mothers who are most responsible for our cognitive abilities.

We also get some insight into whether or not we’re only as old as we feel, and how ergonomics can affect our behavior in civil society.

Episode Highlights

0:32Introduction to Dr. Michael A. Crawford of Imperial College London
2:00This Week in Neuroscience: What If Age Is Nothing But A Mindset?
5:02iTunes Review thank-yous and some great podcasts you should check out
6:53Dr. Crawford's associations and publications
7:44How nutrition shapes the way we develop
10:24Comparison between the brains of land-based and sea-based mammals
12:16Humans' coastal origins: How our brains evolved versus those of the other great apes
14:47The coastal hypothesis versus the savanna hypothesis
18:18Docosahexaenoic acid's (DHA) use in your body and brain
19:34The FDA's "no mercury" advisory and the effects of expecting mothers' seafood consumption on brain development during pregnancy
22:51Japan versus Britain: The difference in seafood consumption by nation and the effects on mental health
24:26The Driving Force: Food, Evolution and the Future – updates to the original published version from 25 years ago
25:56Stressing the importance, in our diets, of omega fatty acids over protein
28:00Agriculturalizing the oceans for a more sustainable future
32:49Becoming "a race of morons": The reluctance to internalize the significance of the human brain and the proper nutrition necessary to build and maintain it
34:51The effects of differing diets on brain make-up, and assisting the brain's natural recycling system by supplying it with DHA
37:24Is there such a thing as "too much of a good thing?"
37:55Consuming seafood directly, as opposed to taking Omega-3 supplements
38:35How do vegans and vegetarians maintain proper brain-health?
40:26The Mother and Child Foundation
42:28Arachidonic acid (AA): omega-6 requirements, and prevalence in our diets compared to omega-3
44:31Curbing water pollution – "saving the oceans to save ourselves"
46:58Ruthless Listener-Retention Gimmick: The Ergonomics of Dishonesty

Key Terms Mentioned

Episode Transcript hideshow

**Voice-over:** *I try to imagine a fellow smarter than myself, then I try to think - What would he do?* **Announcer:** *Charge up your axons, ready your receptors and shift your lobes in to upper beta phase. You're listening to Smart Drug Smarts - the podcast dedicated to helping you optimize your brain with the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience, nootropics and psychopharmocology.* **Jesse:** Hello and welcome to Smart Drug Smarts, I'm your host Jesse Lawler excited to bring you the 51st episode in this podcast, dedicated to the improvement of your own brain by any and all means at your disposal. And this week means that might be most easily accomplished while at the beach or seashore. I'm going to be speaking this week with Dr. Micheal Crawford of the Imperial College, London. Who's an evolutionary biologist, nutrition expert, many times author and a man who has been instrumental in changing the way that we view the evolution of the human animal. Dr. Crawford first came in to my attention on an earlier episode that we did about fish oil, some months ago. And ever since then I've been trying to track him down and get him on the podcast, and we finally succeeded and really just a great interview. I'm super super happy with the conversation that you're about to listen to. This is a longer episode than some of the last few, which I really credit to the fact that he just kept on saying interesting stuff and I couldn't bring myself to either cut him off while we were talking or cut too much out of the episode during the editing. So brace yourself for a lot of interesting stuff. If you hang around until the end of the episode, I'm going to tell you about a very weird study. So sometimes people ask when they hear about smart drugs, "Is that really real? Can a pill really make you think differently?" And I say, "Well of course. Pills can make all kinds of different things happen, right?" Sort of go and justify my excitement about nootropics. But now I've got a new little arrow in my quiver. You say not only can a pill make you think differently but a steering wheel in your car can make you more likely to lie. People are going to say, "What?" I'm going to say, "No, no, no it's science!" And you're going to find out what I'm talking about in the Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick. But before we get into any of that let's do This week in Neuroscience. **Voice-over:** *Smart Drug Smarts - This week in Neuroscience!* **Jesse:** Okay so instead of calling this a This week in Neuroscience, should probably be calling this a Next Spring in Neuroscience. But this is another article that I came across in the New York Times just recently. It's sort of a profile piece on a professor at Harvard named Ellen Langer. She's 67 years old, she's the longest serving professor of psychology at Harvard and she's been studying for decades now the psychology of age. Long story short the first major study that she did that directly relates to this article was in 1981. She had 8 men in their 70's go to a converted monastery in New Hampshire where everything was set up to seem like it was 1959. They had posters on the wall from 1959, books on the shelves, television from 1959 - black and white. They didn't have mirrors for the participants in this experiment to see what they currently looked like and they were told to behave as if they were back in 1959, at the age they were at the time. Everybody treated them that way. Everything in their experience was back to the future-ish to 1959. And then the dermatologist would study the physical bio-markers at that age and how things changed over this time, that they were in this sort of weird time warp environment. Which was not for a terribly long time. It was only a 5 day study. But the results were almost too good. The participants were suppler, they showed greater manual dexterity, they sat taller. All these things as if they were shrugging off years from the way that they looked, felt, behaved etc. Now there was a lot of confounding factors that made this maybe not a perfectly designed study and something like this would be tough to test. Are the old people behaving a certain way because they are trying to please the people putting on the experiment for them and things like that. So while some people found the results very promising, other people were unpersuaded. But this is the sort of work that Dr. Langer has been doing for the past several decades. And there have been many sort of studies similar in nature to the one that I just discussed, over the course of the past couple of decades. Many of them have shown very promising twinges of evidence but again not necessarily things that people are considering to be nail in the coffin evidence that "Age is all in our head" or "Age is largely in our head", things like that. But Dr. Langer, from the article seems to be an eternal optimist is going to be doing a new study next spring in Mexico. She's got a location where she's going to be bringing people with late stage cancer to and seeing if a similar rollback the clock, sort of psychological environment can have measurable, quantifiable effects on the tumor size of these people with late stage cancer. So she's basically sort of swinging for the fences with the idea that whether these sort of changes are placebo effects or not. At a certain point it doesn't really matter if something is a placebo effect, if it's having hyper measurable physiological results. And what could be more important than something like reduction of tumor size in a cancer patient. So the results are not in. This experiment has not been done yet. But really interesting article in the New York Times, worth giving a read to and exciting that this is going to be taking place in spring 2015, so we'll get to know how this all plays out.  **Voice-over:** *Smart Drugs Smarts.* **Jesse:** So a couple of thank you's going out. First of all I would like to thank Citizen 55555, who left a review of Smart Drug Smarts with appropriately 5 stars on iTunes. Who said, "As somewhat of a podcast power user and amateur bio-hacker, I must say Smart Drug Smarts has been on my top 5 podcasts list since I found it several months ago."  Thank you. That is awesome. I too have a top 5 podcast list, which I love them all dearly. There are so many good podcasts out there now, it's kind of getting a little bit ridiculous. But I would like to give a little hat tip to 2 other podcasters out there. One is Roderick Russell of Remarkably Human Radio and Micheal Ostralenk of The Micheal Ostralenk Show. Both of whom were kind enough to invite as an actual interview guest on their podcasts, in the past couple of weeks. Not surprisingly we were kicking around the can on smart drugs, nootropics, bio-hacking, health and things like that and I really appreciate getting a chance to get on and bring what we're doing to their audiences. I'm trying to give a quick little elevator pitch on both shows. Remarkable Human Radio is a relatively new podcast. Just started in the past couple of months, it's still very young. But he's just been hitting out of the park with really interesting interviews on a wide variety of topics. All of which I guess I'd characterize as - if not necessarily being about self-improvement at least are talking with people that are so inspiring that it kind of makes you want to be a better person. Because the guests and the topics and the can-do mindsets that the people that he's talking with are so inspiring. The Micheal Ostralenk Show is a bit longer in the tooth. He's been around for quite a while now. He's got a ton of interviews ranging from health and fitness and mindset, personal optimization. He's from a special ops military background which is as can-do as can-do gets and I think also has a lot of political, current events real politik kind of guests and topics that he covers as well. So definitely both of those are worth checking out. **Voice-over:** *Smart Drugs Smarts.* **Jesse:**  Now we'll get back to the normal order of things and have me doing the interview. I'm going to be interviewing Dr. Micheal A. Crawford of the Imperial College, London. He's the Director of The Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition. He's a Founder Trustee of the Mother and Child Foundation. President of the McCarrison Society. Author of the 1989 book, The Driving Force - Food, Evolution and the Future. A book which talks about the availability of food supplies being probably an underrepresented, under appreciated factor in the direction that evolution runs in. And he's developed those ideas and how they apply to the evolution of homo-sapiens; and is actually a very very vocal proponent of seafood in the human diet. We're going to be talking a lot about that. So, I was about to say let's dive in, which I normally do say; but then I just realized that would be an absolutely atrocious pun. So let's just start the interview.    **Jesse:** Having read about your work, the over all thesis of your career seems to be that nutrition and access to nutrition has shaped and is still shaping the development of life on earth and that we ignore that fact at our peril. **Michael A. Crawford:** Yes, that's perfectly correct and that's just the way we look at it. You know what goes up can come down and usually does and the point is you can't understand how in science at any rate, the emergence of the big brain that we have as homo-sapiens and our intelligence, just simply by magic. It had to be motivated by chemistry to put it bluntly. The brain is a bunch of chemicals and very specific chemicals are acquired for it's work and function. And among the ones that are most specific the signalling systems e.g thought processes, sensory systems, vision, hearing, touch and all the rest of it; are dependent on things that you have to eat. So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that if you don't get those things it's going to go backwards. **Jesse:** So to put that in context, is being a landlubber bad for your brain? **Michael A. Crawford:** To put it in the framework of where did it all come from, it's very easy. Because everybody knows this, that the brain evolved in the sea 500 million years ago. The may not know it was 500 million years ago but we know that we evolved in the marine environment and we've got the chemistry to show the link with the living systems that would've lived about 500 to 600 million years ago. And that chemistry is the same in the cephalopods, in the fish, in the amphibians, in the reptiles, in the birds, the mammals and ourselves. So all the way down from the beginning it's the same chemistry that is used to build the signalling systems of the brain. That is the chemicals come from the sea. Today of course as before they come from the marine food world and really in very poor supply and the land food world. What has happened of late is that we have in the last century particularly been enhancing to great effect the productivity of land based food products through intensification and so on. And so it's been a shift of balance from what we got from the sea to what we got from the land, effectively towards the land-based stuff. Now if you look at all the land based mammals, what you see is as they get bigger and bigger bodies, their brain shrinks. You know, you start of with little capachin monkeys to about 2.5% brain to body weight ratio; you end up at rhinoceros at about 0.001% or even a chimpanzee at 0.1%. So homo-sapiens have got 2%; so how did we get that. Without exception all land based mammals have lost their brains and the only comparable brain size that we have on the planet is in the marine environment with the things like the dolphins with 1.8 kg of brain. So it's all pretty obvious if you look there. **Jesse:** Wow! That's 1.8 kg of brain in a dolphin. What's the average weight in a human? **Michael A. Crawford:** Well the average weight for a human brain is about 1.3 to 1.4 kg. **Jesse:** So we're outweighed by dolphins? **Michael A. Crawford:** We're outweighed by dolphins yes. But don't forget the dolphin has to shut half off it's brain down when it goes to sleep. Otherwise it will drown. And also it's brain is used for much more sensory stuff than ours is. They have sonar location for example. There';s a huge area in the human brain devoted to 2 things - the hand and the way that the signals are handled from the visual system. Now the dolphin doesn't have hands, it has got this huge other area of brain that has to serve the sonar location. it's also got vision. So it really has completely different challenges. And in terms of navigation, we navigate on 2 dimensions whereas the dolphin navigates on 3 dimensions. So it's got a lot of bigger challenges, more to do with this big brain. **Jesse:** So going back to humans for a bit. I guess in the development of human, obviously we started seeing this massive growth in brain size vs what our monkey forbears had around 2 million years ago. What was going on at that point that sort of spurred that growth? **Michael A. Crawford:** My personal view is that if you look at the genetics. The geneticists tell us that we separated from the great apes round about 5 to 7 million years ago. Now the interesting thing is that once the migration from land to sea; land based mammals for some bizarre reason got fed up with wondering around in the land and started mucking about in the sea. And this started about 40 to 50 million years ago. Now these all became from land based mammals to marine mammals. Now that ended about 7 million years ago. I think the dolphin was the last to sort of turn out to be fully committed to the sea. So that in my guess, that is when, it's the time that coincides with the geneticists say we separate from the great apes. So small primates wondered down a river, came to an estuary, saw the sea birds picking away at all the oysters and crabs and catching fish and so on and so forth. They said to each other, "Hey guys, we don't have to climb trees anymore." I will put it that we really started working both land and coastal resources at a very early stage. And that we went through various bottle necks. People migrated inland and got lost and lost their brains. All sorts of things happened and many species may have branched off from what was going on at the seaside. And the trouble is that we don't have much fossil record of that because as Persis Mariann points out, most of the stuff that would've pertained to that area is under the ocean anyway, because of rising sea levels. But they have got now very very good incontrovertible evidence in South Africa through Curtis Mariann's work and John Parkinton's work, of people exploiting the marine food web without question at the time that other humans evolved on the planet. It can be identified at any rate with the fossil records and there's no question about it. They've got absolutely chapter and verse; the use of ochre and all sorts of things, showing decorations already about 160,000 years ago. **Jesse:** Are there any surviving alternative theories that are given any credence as to humans being able to get the brain up to the size that we have at now, without ready access to the ocean. **Michael A. Crawford:** There are yeah. The bulk of paleo-anthropologists think of humans sort of bumming around the Savannah's of Africa killing buffaloes and things like that. The prevailing wisdom is the Savannah hypothesis and they don't like the idea that humans actually had a coastal origin. And may I point out that the coastal origin would also involve the use of lakes and rivers as well as the sea. We've written papers showing that they were pretty good in terms of providing waters needed for the brain. But I don't see the Savannah hypothesis having any real scientific credence. So to create credibility of the coastal hypothesis is both physiologically in terms of the way in which in fact, our physiology is much more like a marine mammal. This was pointed out by Mr. Hardy in 1966 or something like that. Mr. Hardy said, you know we've got temperature dependence by sweating. We have a layer of subcutaneous fat. We have driving reflexes and a whole bunch of stuff. Which is much more like a marine mammal. The animals in the savannah don't waste water. There's not much water there. You see what they do is they let the body temperatures rise, they don't sweat, they don't borrow temperature from the atmosphere and it cools off at night. And we don't have that kind of physiology. And they have fur too to keep out the heat as well. So the Savannah hypothesis is based on some kind of, I think male dominance macho stuff. So running around with spears and arrows and things like that. We may have done that, I wouldn't say we didn't do it but I think when you're running around with spears and arrows, you're already pretty smart. And I think that must have come much later, during the evolution of intelligence. **Jesse:** It's hard to think that hunting down a buffalo with spears is any more macho than hunting down a large fish. **Michael A. Crawford:** The beautiful thing about the marine habitat is that of course if you're heavily pregnant you can't go running around the savannahs for a start. But if you're heavily pregnant all you'd have to do is wonder around the coastline and you've got all the food in the world that you need. It's difficult for us today to visualize just how wealthy the marine food web and the coastal resources would've been. There must have been some colossal attractiveness for wave after wave of land based mammals to grovel around the seashore and then become so fully committed that they can't get back on the land again. It's just unbelievable. There had to be a huge diversity of food. We know that there was. There are some places still in the planet that are like what it might have been but very few left because it's all been picked clean or looted. So there you are. **Jesse:** That's really interesting to think about because for the last probably 10,000 years or so we've had the ability to go out in boats and fish off-shore essentially. Even if you hunted as much as you possibly could in the ocean, there would always be just off-shore a whole wealth of new animals waiting to make contact again. You would have a continually replenished food supply on the edges between the land and the sea. **Michael A. Crawford:** Well that's right. You see the beautiful thing about this is that we know that the molecules, the docosahexaenoic acid which is the top omega 3 fatty acid, that is used in the signalling systems, in vision and synapses of the brain. We know that molecule, not only is used for building these things, it's also says it's own story. It actually tells the genome what to do, how to build the brain itself. It's unbelievable, work in Hungary shows this very clearly. It triggers the expression of several hundred genes that are involved with brain growth and development and function. You've got everything there in science. You know you've got a woman wandering around the coastline, picking up the mussels and oysters and crab or something like that. Maybe fish from the rocky pool after the tides gone out and she's going to get a wealth of this stuff. So generation after generation she's got this epigenetic power driving her fetus to develop bigger and bigger brains. And so we can explain this absolutely fully in science whereas no such explanation coming for the Savannah hypothesis. **Jesse:** You mentioned pregnant mother on the coastline and obviously the development of the brain during gestation and early childhood is one of the most important things for brains past, present and future. There are prohibitions in some places, at least advisories against pregnant women eating too much seafood for fear of mercury and things like that. Tell us your take. **Michael A. Crawford:** That mercury business is a load of rubbish if you don't mind me saying. The F.D.A. put up this advisory several years ago. Captain Joseph Hibbeln from the National Institute of Health published a paper in 2006/7 and he showed that in the biggest, longitudinal study that's ever been done; over 14,000 pregnancies. That when you looked to the 8 year old children born from these 14,000 pregnancies - verbal reasoning power, social scores, behavioral scores all clocked up in a direct line progressively with the amount of fish and seafood the women had eaten during pregnancy. And in fact most women who had complied with the F.D.A. advisory had the worst outcomes for their children at 8 years of age. It was more of a straight line function going upwards as they would increase in fish and seafood during the pregnancy, 8 years later in the children. Now this is the most powerful evidence that you can get from a very well established group working in the National Institute of Health and the Bristol University in England. Now let's just think about another thing. This was published after the F.D.A. advisory and what Captain Hibbeln said in the paper was say that the advisory was actually doing harm because if you followed the advisory your children would not do as well as the people who did not follow the advisory. So when you look at the populations behavior. Take the Japanese for example. The Japanese ladies eat fish and seafood in every meal in the evening, everyday of the week. Sometimes more than once a day they'll have fish and seafood. And they gave birth to the children that have grown up and today have the least major depression, the least coronary heart disease, the least western cancer and the greatest longevity. So where on  earth is the evidence of neurotoxicity and damage that the F.D.A. was talking about. I just don't think that they did the sums properly. And they are now thankfully at last revising that advisory so let's hope they come up with a better solution to what they came up with a few years ago. The problem with that is of course the British food standards agency and the European food standards agency follow the American F.D.A. like a bunch of sheep. And none of those three ever thought about what the Japanese data. Not just Japanese data, it's also data from China and the far-east as well where you see these people who eat a lot of fish and seafood. There's not a scrap of evidence of any harm. **Jesse:** It's funny I guess this just occurred to me as an American, something that I hadn't thought about before. But both Japan and Britain are obviously island nations and have a lot of access to the oceans. How come do you think Japan is so much more renowned for it's seafood eating than the British Isles? **Michael A. Crawford:** I would like to suggest to you that the very beginnings of the industrial revolution and the great stuff which happened few centuries ago in Britain was very large in part because Britain was a seafaring and seafood eating nation. We were pretty close to having quite a lot of seafood as well as land based stuff, at that time. In Queen Elizabeth 1's time, 50% of her income came from the cod fisheries. That's something to think about. Now of course in Britain we've lost that. Japan still has it but is losing it gradually with globalization. That is a serious tragedy because they're talking about the rise of mental ill-health now as in United States, Britain and Europe the number 1 burden of ill-health is really phenomenal. It's overtaken all other burdens of ill-health. In the UK, the department of Health had estimated that the cost in 2010 for mental ill-health was a 105 billion and that's a cost greater than heart disease and cancer combined. So I think we're really going downhill now and that's very serious. **Jesse:** So you published your book The Driving Force: Food, Evolution and the Future 25 years ago this year. If you were to release an updated version today, would there be any major changes you would make? **Michael A. Crawford:** There's 2 answers to that. One is that we're now revising it and will hopefully publish a new edition bringing it up to date with all these figures of mental ill-health. What we call the global crisis in nutrition, and we hope to have it ready for publication early next year. But to give you a part of the story, really what went wrong. During World War 2 people were desperately keen to ensure that the fighting force and the people at home were properly fed. Because they knew that millions of young men would be killed during the war and they had to replace that breeding stock, so to speak, with good healthy, strong young people. And so there was a major operation during World War 2 run by a professor of biochemistry at the University of London - Jack Drummond - to ensure the link between food production, food distribution, nutrition and health. Now after the was that was abandoned because people said, the industry at any rate said, what we need is production. That's what we need more and more and more and more. And that's when it started to go downhill. Then we had research institutes looking into the production of protein and things like that in cereals and production of proteins in animals. And there the major concern was that protein was important for growth. Now that then got translated from animals in to humans. Now protein is growing fuel, if you want to grow a pig or a cow or a horse or something like that. But it is not the thing that is important for humans. If you take human milk, human milk contains the least amount of proteins of any large mammals. But the amount of this essential fats that is present in human milk, the energy the mother produces to put that in the milk for the baby is greater than the energy she puts in to all 10 essential amino acids for the protein. Now I like to take my messages from physiology and there's a very very glaring message about the significance of essential fats to humans than over the lack of significance of proteins. You get proteins from almost any source. Rhinoceros at the age of 4 weighs a ton and all that fantastic velocity of growth from the simplest food resource, that's provided all that protein that's needed to power that phenomenal growth, but it doesn't have a brain. There are lots of these very simple messages that people need to just think about and internalize and get round to the fact that there's this huge mistake about proteins. Protein is not the thing that's important for homo-sapiens. Possibly for cows, pigs and rhinoceroses but not for humans and that was a big mistake. And that led to the focus on land based food and agriculture at the cost of the seafood, which we just use as a dumping ground for our shit and everything else. **Jesse:** You've talked about agriculturalizing the oceans and eventually the need to really treat the oceans in a more sustainable way for getting the food stuffs that we apparently need from them. Tell us what you mean by that, when you say agriculturalizing. **Michael A. Crawford:** There's  a very recent very interesting analysis by two Australians - Gary Bradshaw and Barry Brookson from the University of Adelaide in Australia; where they have looked at the whole population crisis as we've got at the moment. They've come to the conclusion that the sustainability by the planet is only fit for about 2 billion people and we've now got 7 billion and there's likely to be 9 billion in a very short space of time. This is the most serious thing and the foresight analysis in 2011 which was an international analysis of food and agriculture for the future, there were some 400 people involved in producing the report and they talked about the fact that there was not enough arable land to meet the requirements of this 7 billion that we've got at the moment. And there's not enough new land that can be brought in to arable production to meet the requirements for this number of people. You can see it in all statistics of death and mortality around the planet and you can see it in the statistics of what we call the "hidden hunger", namely the heart disease, dementia and things like that and now the mental ill-health that we're seeing in the west. We're really going downhill. So the answer is we cannot do it from land. 10,000 years ago the guy said, "We're running out of food, what are we going to do? We've got to agriculturize the land." That's basically what they did. They domesticated the animals then they domesticated plants. Now this is you know the 21st century. Surely for heavens sake, 71% of the planet is covered in water. Of what's left only 33% of it is capable of producing food. So it makes a huge amount of sense to do what they did 10,000 years ago on land in the ocean. That's what I mean by agriculturalizing. Aqua culture is not going to do it because it means feeding fish with fish and total fish catch scattered about 10-14 years ago and we're not going to get any more fish. We are in effect behaving like neanderthals so far as the ocean is concerned. We're just hunting and gathering. That's what people did 100,000 years ago - hunting and gathering. They've just got better technology to do it. And what we've now got to do is treat the oceans as the last resource for food. The only way we can do that is to agriculturalize it. We have crossed sheep and cows, you can have marine grass for fish. That's what the Japanese are doing. They've got a whole area of seaside where they've been doing this. They've tripled fish production just simply by doing things like that, artificial reefs, so on and so forth. We've actually got to start using the ocean floor and the sunlight of the wealth of the ocean to develop a new food system based on the oceans. And if we do that we will solve all the health problems of the world that we have today as well. **Jesse:** That get's into some giant social questions because when you think about it the agriculturization  of land probably went hand in hand with borders being drawn and people saying, "I own this land, you own that land." And one of the things that's always been true of the ocean is that essentially once you get a few miles out from the coastline it becomes International waters. That sort of lack of direct ownership leads to every man for himself, every fisher for themselves mentality. Just grabbing all the fish you can without worrying about the sustainability of the aquatic environment. **Michael A. Crawford:** You're absolutely right. That's exactly what happened 10,000 years ago and you're perfectly correct about that. People are just exploiting that massive area out in sea. Nobody's saying who belongs what and as i said it's a neanderthal philosophy that they're using for the oceans at the moment. They're just hunting and gathering. We've got to use our intelligence that god gave us and if we don't do that we've had it. The other point I'd like to make is that there's been an extraordinary reluctance for people to actually internalize the significance of the human brain and the significance of the fact that it really does need proper food to keep it working. My wife and I published a book on what we called What We Eat Today and in that book we said that, you can see the evidence of nutritional distortion as a major player in human health. The rise in heart disease from the beginning of the third last century to the 1970's when it was the number one killer. That was perfectly understood at that time that this was bad news and it was mostly diet that was causing it. And that time it was thought that fats, bad fats were particularly responsible for it. Okay there maybe other things responsible for it as well, sugar and so on and that was also being discussed. But the point was that at the end of line it was the wrong kind of nutrition that was responsible and with the elements of bad fats being a part of that. The brain is made up of fat, we argued in the book - brain will be next. We put this prediction out in a book called What We Eat Today. Graham Rose reviewed the book in Sunday Times on the 5th of November, 1972. In the review he said that, "These guys are right. We will become a race of morons unless we do something about it." **Jesse:** Okay. Can't get much more stark and dramatic than that. **Michael A. Crawford:** Yeah, and this is science. Science says lets predict, let's test whether that prediction is correct or false. We predicted in 1972 that unless you do something about serving the interests of the brain with the things that it needs, then the brain is going to be the next thing in the firing line after heart disease. Now this has happened. **Jesse:** That leads me to two questions. One - as far as the fundamental building blocks of the brain, even people that are eating a crappy western completely inland diet that does not have the seafood levels that you're talking about. We're not talking about them having a peanut sized brain, something is still making up the difference. What is it that's making up the difference in a person with a bad diet, that's still kind of giving them the volume and the mass of the brain that they wind up with, even if it's not a perfectly functioning brain? **Michael A. Crawford:** Well, there are two answers in a sense to that. One is your brain, really 70% of your brain cells have divided before you were born. So really the early part of brain of the adult, the early years are determinant of the brain of the adult. And the brain itself has it's own intelligence. It does not like to be fiddled about with whatever the rest of the body is doing. So effectively it recycles it's own stuff. e.g it makes it's own cholesterol. It doesn't care how much cholesterol you've got in your blood low or high, it makes it's own. And it's not interested in what's going around within circles outside it. So the brain has a phenomenal ability to maintain itself but like any other system no recycling process is a 100% efficient. So it's my view that to maintain the brain in health, you need to maintain the inflow of DHA and the important omega 3 fatty acids. You need to maintain that throughout life. If you think about the evolutionary period that gave birth to the brain, that powered the development of the brain to create homo-sapiens, every single neuron would have been rich in that stuff. And it's not just DHA's, I just want to add this, It's not just DHA's, think about iodine. It comes from the same source. There are 2 billion people at the moment according to W.H.O. who have iodine deficiency. And almost certainly have DHA deficiency as well. So I think as far as the adult is concerned you do need to get to grips with the fact that your brain is recycling it's stuff and it needs topping up all the time. That's the only answer I can give. **Jesse:** Is there such a thing as "too much of a good thing" when it comes to seafoods or are there any upper limits to your thinking or all the seafood you can get is probably going to be just fine? **Michael A. Crawford:** As far as I know there's no upper limit. I think the ALSPAC study showed that there's no upper limit at any rate. And the Japanese show as well that there can't really be much in the way of an upper limit. I don't think there's ever been anybody even feeding fish oils at quite high levels, do not seem to have any kind of toxicity. **Jesse:** So for people that are not seafood fans for whatever reasons or don't have adequate access. Something like supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids is probably advisable but not as optimal as actually getting food straight from the source that might have additional micro nutrients. Is that a fair assessment? **Michael A. Crawford:** That's a pretty accurate assessment. I think that the whole package in seafood is full of both the essential fats that they need and as well as all these other micro nutrients that you mentioned. I mentioned iodine in particular but there's also selenium, zinc, copper, manganese which are important. You know if you want to take fish oils you should be sort of taking a mineral supplement with it. **Jesse:** I had a period of my life for almost 7 years where I was a strict vegan. Which I find myself looking back on and cringing a little bit, that I might have really been under nutritionalizing myself with a lot of things. But on the other hand there are a lot of studies that show people maintaining strong cognition very late in life with a much more vegetarian diet. How's that working with people that are vegan or vegetarian? **Michael A. Crawford:** Yeah sure. That works because really it's your mother that did the trick and not you. *laughs* **Jesse:** *laughs* Alright. **Michael A. Crawford:** It's as simple as that. Your intelligence is dependent on what happened before you were born and so really it's your mother that is the person who is responsible for your cognitive ability. I'm not happy with vegetarianism. There is one point that needs to be made. There's so much, I was going to use a rude word about it, but there's so much anti types of food being consumed today in such vast quantities. There's actually nothing wrong with a beef burger or something like that. But in vast quantities it kicks everything else out of the window. So much of that sort of stuff going into people's stomachs these days that if you're a vegetarian you avoid it all. So your mother made your brain and that's fine. You want to keep it and you want to keep your heart healthy as well and vegetarian diet avoids an awful lot of that kind of stuff. But I don't think there's any evidence whatsoever that homo-sapiens was a vegetarian during evolution. **Jesse:** You're the founder of The Mother and Child Foundation. Can you tell us a little about that organization and what it does? **Michael A. Crawford:** The work of The Mother and Child Foundation really was to gather money to support research work in to maternal nutritional health during pregnancy. One of the things that they did was a consequence of this early work. It was a randomized clinical trial in the East End of London, which showed that micro nutrient supplements from the earliest possible time in pregnancy did actually have a significant benefit in a high risk population such as we have there. We had a better than twofold reduction in the proportion of babies that were born small for gestational age. So that's the sort of thing that the foundation has been doing. It's also been developing nutrition based food analogies to enable it to provide proper advise to people if they want. How to eat properly and so on and so forth. But the main focus has been on funding work that's going to tell us what is needed during pregnancy or before pregnancy to ensure the optimum outcome for health and intelligence of the next generation. At the moment we're funding work at the Imperial College in London where we're using MRI to look at the brain at birth to identify the relationship between different regions of the brain which funnily enough require different things. To relate that to maternal nutrition round about the time of beginning of pregnancy and through the pregnancy to further test this whole idea. **Jesse:** Fantastic, that sounds like really great work and it's great to see a intersection point between charity and really science-backed evidences as to what's going to be effective in the real world. **Michael A. Crawford:** Well you see, if you take the brain for example. Whilst the signalling systems are rich in docosahexaenoic acid, the drier cells are rich in arachidonic acid, quite different. And so both of these things are important for the brain is concerned. Most people at the moment are only talking about omega 3. There is some essential requirement for some omega 6 as well. Different with the amygdala, one part of the brain which is concerned with behavior is also rich in arachidonic acid. Different regions of the brain do different things, so that is reflected in the different fats of the brain. Because it's the fats that's doing all the work of signalling and all the stuff that the brain does, the myelination and everything else. 60% of the brain is fat and you know this is our priority and that is the priority so far as the nutrition of the mother and indeed the nutrition of ourselves is of great interest. **Jesse:** Is the lack of focus on the omega 6 is simply because that is something which is so readily present in most of our diets anyway, that it doesn't need to be worried that we're not getting enough? **Michael A. Crawford:** That is correct. In fact it goes a bit further than that because some people are saying we've got far too much omega 6. So there could be an element of truth to that because all these families, these essential fatty acid families and indeed all essential fatty acids are all using the same enzyme systems. We understood this in proteins. You know if you gave one amino acid in great excess, it stopped utilization of some of the others. And if you give one essential fat in great excess it's going to interfere with the use of the other ones. So there's an element of truth in that but I think what this is focusing on is not only the stuff which comes from the plants, the seed oil from soybean and so on and so forth. I think that is the one that is causing the most trouble. **Jesse:** Okay. Any final thoughts that you would like to highlight? I really appreciate all the time and I just think that there's just been a wealth of good information for people. **Michael A. Crawford:** I think the only thing I can say in finishing is that the brain evolved in the sea, life began in the ocean. We really depend on the oceans. We have to save the oceans to save ourselves. And the thing that deeply concerns me is not just the simple answer to the future of humanity, namely the agriculturization of the oceans but to do that we're going to have to address the huge problem and that is pollution of the estuaries and the coastline. Because that is where the marine food chain takes off in earnest and we're just being totally reckless about this. We've been shitting and throwing our industrial waste into the rivers and that has killed the estuaries. In Britain we've got a huge number of what is supposed to be prime beaches unfit for swimming. It's crazy but it's across the planet. You take any estuary you like and you'll see, unless you go to Alaska and some very far away places, that we've been polluted to hell and back. They were once extremely rich sources of food and nourishment. Even in 1900 the barmen in the East End of London would go down to the river Thames and fill their buckets with oysters and put them on the bar for free. You can't do that anymore and we've got to get to grips with the fact that the brain is going downhill. The only way we're going to fix that is again with the oceans. Life began in the oceans, brain evolved in the oceans, we have to save the oceans to save ourselves.    **Voice-over:** *Smart Drugs Smarts.* **Jesse:** So huge thanks to Dr. Crawford for sharing his time with us. I'm sure that probably two thirds of the audience including myself is going to be going to the refrigerator right now and look in to see if we've actually got any fish and if there's nothing in the refrigerator look in for some canned tuna up in one of the cupboards. But some really persuasive ideas there and an exciting idea - the agriculturizing the oceans. Something that I hadn't I guess ever really given that much thought too but maybe there's a large social movement that should exist there that doesn't, that's good to start seeding the idea about. But now as promised the Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick. **Voice-over:** *Smart Drug Smarts - Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick!!!* **Jesse:** Okay so I came across an article from November of 2013. This was published in Psychological Science magazine with the intriguing title, "The Ergonomics of Dishonesty." And you think about those 2 things, ergonomics and honesty or dishonesty and what the heck do these have to do with one another. Ergonomics is something like how something fits posturally. You know how a physical object interacts with a person, is your glove ergonomically comfortable, is the chair that you're sitting in comfy on your butt and makes your back posture correct. Things like that. So what does this have to do with dishonesty? Well there was this TED talk, maybe about a year and a half ago is when I saw it. It was pretty popular, we'll put a link up to it. It was talking about these power poses. How you can effect how you feel, your mood, your confidence all these things by essentially standing in kind of like a Wonder Woman or Captain America sort of a pose. You know puff up your chest, put your hands on your hips and stand with your legs akimbo. It's going to make you feel better about the world, more powerful, your position compared to other people. And the opposite is also true. If you curl up in a fetal position like you're afraid of getting kicked or something like that. Hunch over like a whipped dog, you're going to feel like a whipped dog and you're going to have more of a doom and gloom outlook and things like that. They've shown this in numerous studies and this sort of study this "Ergonomics of Dishonesty", this article is actually looking at 4 different studies. So it's sort of a mashup of several different studies all looking at, well what about when you're not intentionally getting into a power pose or you're not intentionally curling up in a fetus position. But the physical objects that you're interacting with in the real world just kind of happen to put you in that position. An example would be the desk that you're sitting in while you're taking a test or the rental car that you've rented and you're driving around a new city. Is it one that is a little bit too small for you and you're kind of cramped up in the opposite of a power position or is it one with a wide steering wheel and plenty of legroom and you're kind of in a naturally expansive position as you drive. And does this have an effect on our psychology? According to these studies the answer is definitively, "Yes." That there were statistically significant changes in how people behaved just based on the ergonomics of the physical spaces that they kind of happened to be in by pure happenstance, not through any selection process of their own. So it wasn't like people who are feeling worthless picking cramped little cars and getting into them and that's the explanation for these findings. What they found among other things was that individuals who engage in expansive postures were more likely to steal money, cheat on tests and commit traffic violations in a driving simulator. Not necessarily good things, it's really kind of one of those studies that leaves you scratching your head because on the one hand you watch the original TED talk and are like, "Ah cool, power position, expansive poses. I'm going to stand in this Captain Amarica pose for five minutes everyday and feel great about myself." And then this study is kind of saying, "Well you might feel great about yourself but you'll feel so great about yourself that you're going to take advantage of the fellow people in the world around you and be more likely to engage in anti-social behavior." So there's an interesting discussion when the authors, at the end of this article get into, what these findings actually mean and I think that almost anybody would agree that these studies are interesting enough that they require that we do some more studies before making any sort of prescriptive decisions about chairs and widths of steering wheels and things like that. But how mind bending to think that these seemingly innocuous interactions that we have with physical objects everyday could be having a subtle but profound effect on the way that we interact as humans.  **Voice-over:** *Smart Drug Smarts - The podcast so smart, we have smart in our title, twice!!* **Jesse:** And that is the entire episode, number 51. If you liked what you heard please recommend this podcast to your friends and or leave us a review on iTunes. As usual the show notes for this episode will be online at [www.smartdrugsmarts.com](http:/smartdrugsmarts.com//) including the links to all the stuff that we talked about here. I will be back at you next week, it is going to be my birthday week and because I'm not an alcohol drinker I get to decide if I'm going to be celebrating with a aniracetam or a armodafinil or my nootropic choice on my birthday is. Further deliberations forthcoming but in the meantime have a great week and stay smart. **Announcer:** *You've been listening to the Smart Drugs Smart podcast. Visit us online at [www.smartdrugsmarts.com](http:/smartdrugsmarts.com//) and subscribe to our mailing list to keep your neurons buzzing with the latest in brain optimization.* **Disclaimer:** *Smart Drug Smarts should be listened to for entertainment purposes only. Although some guests on the show are medical doctors, most are not and the host is just some random guy. Nothing you hear on the podcast or read on [www.smartdrugsmarts.com](http:/smartdrugsmarts.com//) should be considered medical advice. Consult your doctor, and use some damn common sense before doing anything that you think might have a lasting impact on your brain.*
Written by Rhiannan Roe
Rhiannan Roe is a writer, editor and unapologetic champion of self-improvement. Combining her passions has led to her helping several start-ups across three continents. In her spare time she travels, collects stories from inspiring people, and fruitlessly endeavors to read every book ever written.
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