January 6, 2008

Waist-to-Hip Ratio, Omega-3s, and ADD

Posted in ADHD, External Links, Omega-3/fish oil, Posts by Guests, Women at 1:48 am by bloggingawayadhd

Joan, over at “Chaotic Order, Living with ADD” wrote a post, which is relevant to this blog, and is excerpted below. To read the entire post, click on this link: “She Get It From Her Momma

The University of Pittsburgh and University of California @ Santa Barbara published a study suggesting that fat stored in the hips and butt are a privileged source of nuerodevelopmental resources. The study asserts that upper body fat particularly abdominal fat has negative effects and lower body fat (hips, butt) have positive effects on long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) that are essential for brain development. They used waist to hip ratio(WHR) as a marker for how much fat is located around a woman’s waist compared to how much is around a her hips, thighs and butt. They used the WHR to predict cognitive ability in women and their children. They used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which included data on body fat, body mass index (BMI), waist & hip circumference, results of cognitive tests of adults & children, demographics such as education levels, income, age, race and etc.

They analyzed the data controlling for factors that correlate with higher intelligence and found that women with lower WHR and their kids have significantly higher cognitive test scores and teenage mothers with lower WHR and their kids are protected from cognitive decrements associated with teen births.

Omega-3 fatty acids are the main LCPUSFA involved in brain development. Omega-3’s contain DHA and ALA and are essential fatty acids because they can not be made from the body. They have to come from food or supplements. ALA can be converted to DHA by the body. ALA mainly comes from flax seed, walnuts, olive oils etc, while DHA is primarily found in fatty fish. LCPUSFA’s make up 20% of the dry weight of the human brain. DHA is critical for fetal and infant brain development which is one of the reasons they add it to infant formula while it is found naturally in breast milk. A recent meta-analysis report estimates that a child’s IQ increases by 0.13 point for every 100mg increase in daily maternal prenatal intake of DHA. A study in England showed a positive relationship between a mother’s prenatal consumption of seafood (high in DHA) and her child’s verbal IQ.

Gluteofemoral(hips/butt) fat has higher amounts of LCPUFA’s than abdominal and visceral fat. In comparison, abdominal fat decreases the amount of a desaturase enzyme that is involved in the synthesis of important LCPUFA’s from dietary precursers. Other studies showed that 60-80% of LCPUFA’s in human breast milk come from maternal fat stores, rather than from the mother’s current dietary intake, presumably because of the rapid rate of infant brain development relative to limited dietary supplies of LCPUFA’s.

The most important points of this study is that Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for the brain development of fetuses, infants and in adults as well and also that having excessive abdominal fat reduces the availability of those fatty acids and raise health risks in general. Low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids have been implicated in contributing to ADD, depression, anxiety disorders, aggression, hypertension and etc. So make sure that you are taking in enough omega-3’s especially if you are pregnant. Mommies, some children’s vitamins now contain DHA.



  1. Thought you might be interested in this omega-3 video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIgNpsbvcVM

  2. Joan said,

    There are plenty of factors for intelligence, but the main thing I took from the article is that omega-3’s play a huge role in brain health and that excessive abdominal fat (I’m working on that too) is associated with less of the enzyme needed for synthesis of the omega-3’s.

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