Twenty years ago, former Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Dr. Barry Sears didn’t buy into the high-carb/low-fat nutritional mantra of the day and instead championed a diet that would reduce cellular inflammation — and combat the world’s rising obesity rate.
Fast forward to today: diabetes diagnoses have risen nearly 180% over the last 3 decades, thanks in part Sears says to the continued adherence to the high-carb/low-fat diet dogma. And now Sears thinks it’s not a coincidence that new Alzheimer’s Disease cases have risen dramatically over the same period.
In Sears’s new book, The Mediterranean Zone, he makes a strong case that a pro-inflammatory diet can be directly linked to brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
According to Sears, almost all chronic diseases can be tied to cellular inflammation, which over time can negatively impact the brain.
Sears says the best approach to beating the odds of developing many diseases ranging from cancer to heart disease is to keep your cells as healthy as possible through an anti-inflammatory diet.
While Sears recommends a Mediterranean diet, and I’d say Paleo is the better choice, the end goal is the same. Both diets promote balanced meals that include protein, low glycemic carbs (such as fruits and vegetables), and moderate amounts of fat that are low in omega-6 fatty acids (such as found in vegetable oils) and rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Sears points out the typical American diet includes way too many omega-6 fatty acids…up to 20-times more than omega-3. It’s no surprise fast food meals loaded with vegetable oils are one of the biggest offenders.
Due to the inflammatory properties of omega-6, Sears speculates this 20:1 fatty acid imbalance may explain many psychological and emotional issues people experience today, and omega-6-rich diets may even raise an individual’s propensity for violent behavior.
Sears cites studies that seem to indicate high doses of omega-3 fatty acids may help in the treatment of depression, ADHD, and anxiety.
The point in Sears’s assessment is you need to cut way back on omega-6 and other foods that may cause cellular inflammation and make a conscious effort to work more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.
Wild salmon is one of the best natural sources of omega-3. Stay away from farm-raised salmon – producers increasingly use vegetable oils rich in omega-6 to feed the fish.
Sears also says only the Japanese eat enough fish to properly balance the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, and the best solution for most people is enhancing their anti-inflammatory diets with high-quality omega-3 supplements made from anchovies and sardines.