Human nutrition through the 'seven ages'.
The McCarrison Society conference – October 2012


Preconception care: Nutrition and health status of both parents.
Dr Marilyn Glenville, the Marilyn Glenville Clinics

The oxidative theory of death.
Professor Michael Crawford, Imperial College

Nutrition in the high risk infant.
Dr Enitan Ogundipe, Imperial College

Childhood: Maintaining good nutrition for mental health and behavioural development.
Dr Alex Richardson, University of Oxford

Adolescence: Preparing for adulthood.
Dr Bernard Gesch, University of Oxford

Performance: Sports nutrition – the science to make your life a great one.
Matt Lovell, performance nutritionist

Educating children as progenitors of long-life health.
Rev. Simon House, Chair, McCarrison Society


Preconception care: Nutrition and health status of both parents.
Dr Marilyn Glenville, the Marilyn Glenville Clinics

'Over the past twenty years, fertility problems have increased dramatically. At least 25% of couples planning a baby will have trouble conceiving, and more and more couples are turning to fertility treatments to help them have a family.' This is one of the headings on Dr Glenville's website and it was the preconceptual nutritional status of couple that was the core of her presentation for the McCarrison Society.

But her focus was not just on the importance of the women's health when a couple are trying to conceive as she sees the man's health as being equally important, especially in the light of recent statistics which show that, for example, 20–25% of 18–25 year olds in Germany now have low sperm counts, or that, of a group of 19 year olds between 1996 and 2010, only 23% had optimum sperm counts.

Dr Glenville suggested that if the nutritional status and lifestyle of a couple trying to conceive can be improved for even just three months prior to conception, this can dramatically improve not only their chance of conceiving but of them having a healthy baby. However, it is important that couples plan ahead as leaving it until the woman suspects she may be pregnant is already far too late as she will already have been pregnant at that point for two weeks.

But, apart from nutrition, there are many lifestyle factors that need to be taken into account – viz:

• Substance use or abuse – drugs, alcohol, smoking
• Environmental toxins
• Folic acid status
• Genetic make up of both partners
• General health and any pre-existing medical conditions
• Psychological health
• Age
• Weight
• Oxidative stress

Couples with four or more of these 'negative life style factors' may take up to seven times longer to achieve a successful pregnancy.

To be more specific:

Alcohol, recreational drugs and some prescription drugs
All of these can affect sperm health, reducing sperm counts, causing abnormal sperm and abnormalities in sperm activity. Exposure can also affect DNA, causing fragmentation which may have a direct effect on fertility.

Smoking is a significant factor in creating abnormal sperm and causing impotence. It is also linked to childhood cancer and, in 2004, was linked to over 5,000 miscarriages. See BMJ report here.

Two cups of coffee per day can delay conception and significantly increase the risk of miscarriage.

Stress in men increases levels of abnormal sperm; in women it can affect ovulation and may also affect the baby.

Environmental toxins
Pesticide/solvent exposure (especially among agricultural workers) can affect all aspects of pregnancy and birth, including miscarriage.
Organic solvent exposure (women working in certain industries, painters, cleaners, laboratory workers) can affect children's behavioural development.
BPA affects female fertility
NB Endocrine disrupting chemicals are to be found in both sexual lubricants and in spermicides.

Increased scrotal temperature
Too much driving, using a laptop on the lap, too tight trousers can all increase scrotal temperature thereby affecting sperm health.

Omega 3 deficiencies
There has been an 80% decrease in the average consumption of Omega 3 fatty acids, in favour of the pro-inflammatory Omega 6 fatty acids.
This can affect sperm health as well as women's fertility but is easy to correct with Omega 3 supplementation.

Vitamin D.
50% of women in the UK are deficient in Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency in both men and women needs to be corrected before conception as the deficiency will be carried forward to the child. Vitamin D supplementation, preferably combined with zinc, Vitamins C and E and selenium will be very helpful and may well obviate the need for IVF intervention.
Good levels of both Vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids will help to suppress the allergic response in the child.

Weight/body mass index
Both too much and too little weight in either parent can affect the chances of conception and the health of the child.

Despite the enormous difference that preconceptual health can make to the chances of conceiving, the success of the pregnancy and the health of the child, very few couples will consider it unless they have already had trouble in conceiving. There is a huge educational job needing to be done.


The oxidative theory of death.
Professor Michael Crawford, Imperial College

Two and a half billion years ago life consisted of anaerobic systems with no intracellular detail; these did not die.

Six hundred million years ago, enough oxygen became available to allow animal life to exist – but at that point it also became possible for that life to cease to exist and for animals to die.

However, it was not just the availability of oxygen that gave rise life as we understand it, but the fact that the availability of oxygen allowed the creation of lipids or fats, which in turn allowed the creation of complex lipid molecular species, membranes and intercellular and cell specialisation. Photons from the sun then combined with the lipids to create electricity and thereby, intercellular communication.

The brain is made of complex membranes of fats; its chemistry did not change as animals developed, but its size did.

DHA and the brain
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid – an Omega 3 fatty acid) is essential for brain cell structure, brain function, for the photoreceptors that create sight and for gene expression within the brain. 'DHA is the master of DNA – not the other way around.'
If you deprive mother animals of DHA this will be very visible in the brains of their children.

The heart and ARA
The heart is the very first organ to develop in the embryo as it is needed to feed energy to all of the other systems in the body. ARA (arachidonic acid – an Omega 6 fatty acid) is very important in the embryo and at birth in order to build a stronger heart and vascular system to feed the growing foetus but especially the brain which will soak up 70% of all the energy derived from the mother in the last trimester of pregnancy. Even in adults the brain uses 20% of the energy used by the whole of the body.

Getting enough essential fatty acids:
An adequate supply of DHA and iodine are essential for healthy development. Some of this can be derived from seaweeds which are rich in iodine but, depending on the variety, may not be that rich in essential fatty acids.
The current state of the world's fish stocks is too poor to supply the world's need of Omega 3 fatty acids but these could be supplied by the type of marine agriculture that is already being developed in the Far East.
Algae and marine grasses, fed by sugar, sunlight and mineral-filled rains and water washed off the mountains could produce perfectly adequate supplies.


Nutrition in the high risk infant.
Dr Enitan Ogundipe, Imperial College

What puts a child into a 'high risk' bracket?

The most common reason is being premature but a child can also become 'high risk' if it has had poor care post birth, it was too large or too small at birth or if there is some surgical or congenital abnormality.

Significant predisposing factors include:
• Maternal health – good maternal health will normally result in a health baby
• Socioeconomic status
• Maternal diet. Anorexic mothers, who are themselves suffering from malnutrition, are becoming more common.
• Mothers coming from war zones where stress levels may have been very high and nutrition very poor.

Low birth weight babies – up to 2.5 kilos
• Often have poor neuro development and worse health later in life.
• Low-birth-weight babies often suffer from congenital abnormalities.
• If the mother has had one low-birth-weight baby, there is a 33% chance that she will have another one.

Preterm – up to 37 weeks
Younger and younger babies (as young as 24 weeks) are now surviving but they present many problems.
• Unique metabolic needs
• Gastroenterological immaturity
• Immunological immaturity
• It is impossible to deliver the nutrition that the foetus would have received via the placenta in the womb. Even though the addition of essential fatty acids has helped as has the use of the mother's milk it is impossible to meet the nutritional needs of the of the baby.
• Because the gastrointestinal system has not yet developed the baby can only absorb tiny amounts of food and it has to be delivered parenterally (directly into the bloodstream).
• Bowel problems, such as necrotising enterocolitis, are very common. These can become gangrenous which may involve surgery and which can be fatal.
• Because the immune system is immature, pre-term babies are very vulnerable to infection and sepsis which has to be treated with antibiotics thus further depleting their poor levels of essential fatty acids and protective minerals and vitamins.

Maternal health
• The mothers of preterm infants are often very low in essential fatty acids.
• Both maternal diabetes and obesity are associated with congenital abnormalities.
• Folic acid supplementation has significantly improved baby outcome.
• Hypothyroidism in the mother can lead to cretinism in the child.

Breast milk and fortification
Using breast milk, especially if fortified with EFAs and even if it is mixed with some formula milk, does seem to lead to lead to better outcomes in terms of head growth, brain development and speech.


Childhood: Maintaining good nutrition for mental health and behavioural development.
Dr Alex Richardson, University of Oxford

One in five children in the UK are now classed as having 'special educational needs' yet the role of nutrition is still ignored.

There are a a minimum of 39 essential nutrients, many of which are essential fatty acids, that are needed for optimal development. These should come from the diet but the majority of children are not receiving an optimal diet. In the Food Standards Agency's 'Eatwell' plate, the only place for fats in the diet is in the 'bad' food section of foods that should be avoided or strictly limited.

Sugar and refined carbohydrates
• Sugar and refined carbohydrates cause rapid swings in blood glucose resulting in rapid swings in mood, behaviour and cognition. There is a very small period between the swings in which blood glucose levels are within an optimal range.
• Sugar appears to mirror dug abuse and therefore be addictive (see Dr Robert Lustig's presentation on UTube)
• Fructose , when it is removed from fruit and used as a sweetener, is the worst offender in that it disrupts metabolism.
• Sugar is also empty calories, displacing other foods and nutrients.
• Excess sugar stunts brain growth and connectivity.
• Excess sugar affects the gut by encouraging over growth of bad bacteria and yeasts.

• The brain is 60% fat
• Transfats/hydrogenated fats are twisted fats and harmful.
• Fats may be essential to the diet but it is equally essential that they are good quality fats.
• The ration of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids should be 4 to 1; thanks to modern food manufacture and its very high use of vegetable oils instead of saturated fats, the ratio can be as high as 100 to 1.
• Long chain fatty acids, which really can only be efficiently got from fish, are the ones that are important for health.
• Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for efficient neurotransmitter function.
• Pre-natally, the only way the foetus can get these fats, which are essential for the formation of brains cells, is from the mother.
• DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is vital for vision and for the proper functioning of the nervous system – which is why it appears to be so important in schizophrenia and dyslexia.
• Research (the Avon study) suggests that maternal nutrition can affect the mental health of the child throughout their life.
The study, running over 20 years, suggests that, all other considerations aside, the mothers who ate no fish during pregnancy had a significantly higher chance of having children with poor mental health or developmental or behavioural problems.
• In the US depressed patients are now being fed Omega 3 fatty acids with some success although there is no suggestion that supplementation should also be given to children
• Various trials (Harvard meta-analysis, Durham trial etc) have suggested that 1/2 – 1 gram a day of fish oils will reduce the incidence of ADHD and improve literacy and working memory.

For research details please see (Food and Behaviour Research)


Adolescence: Preparing for adulthood.
Dr Bernard Gesch, University of Oxford

Across the world and across cultures, populations fall into three groups:

• Those who never get into trouble
• Those who always get into trouble from babyhood through to old age
• Those who offend during adolescence – between the ages of 15 and 17. These account for 25% of all offenders and are mainly boys.

Criminal justice assumes that conduct is a matter of free will – but the exercise of free will involves the exercise of the brain. However, to work properly, the brain needs nutrition. It also needs love and security but primarily, it needs to be properly fed.

Between the ages of 10 and 16 boys go through growth spurts and puberty both of which are massive, nutrition-consuming, changes. If those boys are nutritionally deprived, can their brains function properly to allow them to make good choices?

Medical science regards nutrition as 'complementary' or 'alternative' but without nutrition there can be no life; nutrition is the most basic medical science and the effects of poor nutrition do not stop at the neck.

Major changes have been made in our diets over the last 50 years with no consideration at all of the possible effects of on the brain. However, even the WHO (World Health Organisation) now accepts that 30% of humanity is suffering from malnutrition (lack, in particular of Vitamin A, iodine and zinc) and that this can result in mental retardation. While 840 million people are actually starving, nutrient deprivation stretches all across the developed world and across all classes.

Criminal nutrition

What causes some people to commit crimes while others do not? We do not know – nor does anyone seem to be interested in investigating why those who do commit crimes do so. Yet, while there was a marked reduction in violence when lead was removed from petrol, violence against the person continued to increase dramatically over the course of the 20th century.

Prison diets are not, of themselves too bad, but the dietary choices that prisoners make are often very poor.

• Excess sugar
Prisoners can consume up to half a kilo of sugar per day (there was a seven-fold increase in the consumption of sugar population wide during the 20th century) and some may have difficulty in metabolising sugar.
– A US study in which the snack food on offer in one prison was changed to low sugar resulted in a very significant reduction in the rate of violence and suicide.
– One individual offender, a truck driver, in a UK prison, was found, when tested, to have a massive glucose intolerance. He was 'sentenced' to a sugar-free diet and 18 years later had not re-offended.

• Nutritional supplementation
In a study in the mid 1990s 18–21 year olds in a another person were given nutritional supplementation to bring them up to 100% of their RDA (although, being 15 years ago this was still relatively low). The psychological outcomes between the active and placebo group were exactly the same, but there was a 26% reduction in offending within the active group. There were no adverse effects.
The correlation between offending and psychological interventions is very small.

• If improving nutrition reduces violence amongst prisoners it will also do so in other populations. Nutrients do not discriminate.
• Nutritional intervention is extremely cost effective.

• If offenders had been fed properly neonatally or as children, would they have offended – so would there be less crime?

• A major reduction in crime would threaten the income of the legal profession...


Performance: Sports nutrition – the science to make your life a great one
Matt Lovell, performance nutritionist

It is easy to forget that even elite athletes are just ordinary people eating the same diet as most other people yet making far from ordinary demands on their bodies.

The purpose of sports nutrition is to enable athletes to endure and compete over a long period. Over the course of a match or an event there will be not only carbohydrate and liquid depletion but sodium and nutrient depletion affecting not just muscles but the digestion, the hormonal system and the brain.

Moreover, athletes put themselves under constant stress so their nutritional regime has to allow them to 'power down' after each session so as to be able to prepare for the following one – and to be able to enhance their performance on each occasion.

Matt them went on to give details of some of the types of nutritional regime that he might devise for specific sports or practitioners of those sports.

If you are interested in more details of his protocols and regimens contact him at



Educating children as progenitors of long-life health.
Rev. Simon House, Chair, McCarrison Society

Children need to understands, from early on in life, that their lifestyle will affect not only their own health but the health of their children and grandchildren. They need to understand the basics of nutrition and how nutrition affects the functioning of their brains and their emotions.


Genes and gene expression remain stable, but, epigenetics (the effect of the environment on those genes) can enable them to adapt.
Thus through ten generations of foxes, 2700 gene adaptations or molecular changes could turn them from aggressive wild creatures to tame pets.
These adaptations can be caused by toxins, nutrition, or love/security – or lack of it – creating excess cortisol or adrenaline.

Stages in human nutritional evolution:

• Algae
• Brains enlarged by Omega 3 fatty acids in human.
• Agricultural revolution – humans leave the sea and their intake of Omega 3s plummets.
• Industrial Revolution – further reduction in the intake of beneficial nutrients.
• Intensive farming – yet further reduction in intake of beneficial nutrients– the availability of some of the minerals needed for optimum brain function which should be derived from the soil has dropped by over 70% in the last 50 years.
• Modern food processing – yet further reduction in intake of beneficial nutrients.

By changing our biosphere we are also changing ourselves – constantly 're-setting' our switches.

• But does this re-setting happen properly if nutrition is poor? If nutrition is poor, brain connections are poor and this affects how we feel and how we control our impulses.
• In IVF, are the switches re-set properly? As yet there is very little monitoring of the outcomes of IVF – we really do not know what the effects may be. And nine in ten couples may not need IVF if they are properly nurtured.

We need a third agricultural revolution – to sea farming:

• We need to control sewage discharge into the sea and recycle the sewage.
• We need to replant coral reefs.
• We need to encourage and grow algae.


For further information about the McCarrison Society and its work check their website at



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