The Madness of Adam and Eve – enlightened by oils

The Madness of Adam and Eve  –   enlightened by oils

Dr. Weeks’ Comment:

David Horrobin, M.D.  was a genius in health matters, a brilliant doctor who created clearer insights into disease mechanisms and encouraged others through his founding the most exciting medical journal presently in print:  Medical Hypothesis. 

David pioneered the scientific understanding and clinical application of the field known today as “essential fatty acids” or more generically, the benefits of omega 3 fish oil and omega 6 evening primrose oil.   (Actually, to be more historically accurate,  our grandmothes chasing us around the kitchen with daunting tablespoons of cod liver oil are the real pioneers in this field!)

David pioneered the scientific understanding and clinical application of the field known today as “essential fatty acids” or more generically, the benefits of omega 3 fish oil and omega 6 evening primrose oil.   (Actually, to be more historically accurate,  our grandmothes chasing us around the kitchen with daunting tablespoons of cod liver oil are the real pioneers in this field!)

One of his delightful books,  The Madness of Adam and Eve, reviewed below, shot across my intellectual bow years ago and stopped my clinical practice in its tracks.  I contacted him with questions, he generously corresponded patiently until I came to understand his thesis and we remained close friends until his untimely death, which I still grieve.

The thesis  is as simple as it is inspired:   a change in diet from carbohydrate and meat (starch and omega 6 respectively) to omega 3 rich fish and seafoods alowed the size of the humnan brain to expand and with that increase in capacity, for the first time language and abstract thinking were possible.  However, once various tribes moved inland away from omega 3 rich foods and started farming,  this creative capacity of the newly grown brain was starved of the omega 3 essential fatty acids and the now malnourished neurons in the brain began to mis-fire creating the initial symptoms of psychosis (schizophrenia, mania, paranoia, hallucinations). Fascinating and reasonable hypothesis thus far.  What following is genius at its playful best:  David posits that all of the flower of human culture: arts, music, religion, political philosophy derived from this mis-firing. Howzatt?

Well those malnourished brains which resulted in visual hallucinations started drawing their visions on cave walls – these were the initial visual artists from whom our Michaelangelos and Picassos sprung over the eons.  Those whose malnourished brains resulted in auditory hallucinations became musicians (our Mozarts who simply record on paper the music which “plays” constantly in their minds) and also the holy men – priests who had direct “conversations” with God and who could persuade their neighbors of the reality of their experience.  Those whose malnourished brains resulted in irrational fear and paranoia, well these hypervigalent men became our political leaders able to whip up the otherwise peaceful masses with docile predispositions into great armies fighting for others who also came under the the sway of different paranoid leaders.

So there you have it:  Art,  Music, Religion and Political drama arose in all its brilliance simply because “fat and happy” became “lean and mean”.

Addendum:   $20 billion of antipsychotic medication was sold in 2008 and of that total, $15 billion was consumed by Americans – the same Americans who have been encouraged to eat a “low fat” diet for the past 40 years.    How does that organic foi gras sound now?

See  http://weeksmd.com/?p=473  for info on fish oil and mental health  and

  http://weeksmd.com/?p=56  for info re fish oil and mood disorders

_

 

The Madness of Adam and Eve

by David Horrobin
Transworld Publishers Limited, 2001
Review by Lloyd A. Wells, Ph.D., M.D. on Aug 5th 2001

The Madness of Adam and Eve

Horrobin has written a timely, well argued and fascinating book with two arguments; indeed, this book could have (and perhaps should have) been two books — one on the possible role of lipids in schizophrenia, and the other on the possible role that schizophrenia and other “functional psychoses” had in the evolution of our species and its demarcation and divergence from other great apes. The basic argument of the book is that schizophrenia (and perhaps other functional psychoses) are caused by abnormalities in lipid chemistry, caused by a change in diet at the time that mankind made its final divergence from other great apes and hominids, and that the emergence of functional psychoses was related to increased creativity, if not in those affected with major psychoses, at least in their close relatives.

Horrobin clearly is wedded to his lipid hypothesis. This argument is very interesting but not ultimately persuasive. There are many hypotheses about the etiology of schizophrenia: faulty neural transmission, structural defects in the brain, altered lipid metabolism, and immunologic abnormalities, to name a few. We simply don’t know, at this point. The lipid hypothesis is intriguing and certainly worth pursuing – and good investigations in this area are being conducted.

Although Horrobin consistently discusses schizophrenia as emerging around the time that our ancestors becoming human, he is really talking about all functional psychoses, certainly including bipolar disorder. He bases this inclusiveness on some highly controversial literature. However, when we are talking about neural events which occurred many millions of years ago, everything is speculative, and it is reasonable enough for him to be a lumper rather than a splitterositive features of the book include the great interest of the topic, the facility of the writing – this book is easily comprehensible to people with minimal background in biology or psychiatry – and the ingenuity of many of the author’s arguments.

Some of the negative features of the book are related to these strengths. More discussion of schizophrenia’s possible survival value vs. schizophrenia as epiphenomenon would have been useful. A deeper exploration of the literature on the genetics of schizophrenia and other psychoses would also have been helpful. At times, the book seems to be heded toward gossip. We learn, for example, that the author knows famous people, including Nobel Prize winners, with schizophrenic children. We start wondering, “Who are they?”!

Of course, the evolutionary argument is purely speculative, but it is intriguing, as is the lipid hypothesis, which is heuristic. Could a change in our ancestral dietary patterns have led to the state of being human and to having functional psychoses? We shall never know, in all likelihood. The entire book is speculative and highly enjoyable. We can draw no lasting conclusions from it, but it will make all of us think. I recommend it to biologists, psychiatrists and philosophers.

Lloyd A. Wells, Ph.D., M.D., is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He has a particular interest in philosophical issues related to psychiatry and in the logic used in psychiatric discourse.

Share This Post

Dr. Weeks’ Comment: David Horrobin, M.D.  was a genius in health matters, a brilliant doctor who created clearer insights into disease mechanisms and encouraged others through his founding the most exciting medical journal presently in print:  Medical Hypothesis.  David pioneered the scientific understanding and clinical application of the field known today as “essential fatty acids”…
&source=WeeksMD">