Professor Michael A Crawford
Professor Michael Angus Crawford
Having reported evidence that the brain required arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acid specifically, for its growth, structure and function in 1972, our work has focused first on testing the evidence, the specificity and the requirement. Attention is now directed on establishing (i) the biological reason for the uniqueness of docosahexaenoic acid in neural signaling systems which stretched unchanged over the 500- 600 million years of evolution and (ii) the application of this knowledge to the prevention and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders.
In the 1970s we recognized that link between dietary fats, atherosclerosis and cardio-vascular disease meant that the brain which is better protected but is dependent on specialized , essential fats would eventually be affected by the changing nutritional conditions which especially effected the dietary fats. The prediction that "the brain would be next" was published but met with skepticism. However, it has now been vindicated as brain disorders have overtaken all other burdens of ill health. The health cost audit of the EU in 2005 put it at €386 billion at 2004 prices for the then 25 member states. In the UK the cost was assessed at £77 billion for 2007. The recent update by the Dr Jo Nurse for the DoH came out at £105 billion. This cost is greater than heart disease and cancer combined.
The change in disease profile cannot be due to a change in the genome in such a short time. Moreover the nutritional conditions are unlikely to neither change the DNA nor change the proteins. However, the cell membrane lipids house at least one third of known cellular proteins. These are the receptors, transporters, anti-oxidant systems and signalers and hence aa change in the physical chemistry of their domains will influence proteinl function. In addition, specific essential fatty acids act as ligands for nuclear receptors and manipulate gene expression. Thus altering the membrane lipids and the dolmans around the membrane proteins alters cell function. There is good evidence that the rise in brain disorders is linked to the changing dietary conditions, which is clearly a matter of serious concern. This is especially so as the Global Forum for Health is predicting that the rise in mental ill-health will also affect developing countries
The background will be available on the web site of the Food and Agricultural Organization in their summary of the report of an expert consultation jointly with WHO tilted "Fats and Fatty Acids in Human Nutrition, FAO nutrition paper no 91 (ISNN 0254 – 4725).