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The rôle of vitamines in the diet
Publication date: 1917
Authors: Thomas B. Osborne, Lafayette B. Mendel with the cooperation of Edna L. Ferry and Alfred J. Wakeman
In 1917, the idea of essential micronutrients was fiercely debated. Knowing nothing of modern biochemistry, this pioneering paper argued that the diets used in Röhmann’s experiments arguing that additional nutrients were unnecessary still contained some ‘vitamines’, only tiny amounts of which were needed to maintain health.

On the nature and rôle of the fatty acids essential in nutrition
Publication date: 1930
Authors: George and Mildred Burr
George and Mildred Burr introduced the idea of linoleic acid (the omega-6 precursor) as an essential fatty acid , and speculated that linolenic acid (the omega-3 precursor) might also be essential.

Atherosclerosis in the Masai
Publication date: 1972
Authors: George V. Mann, Anne Spoerry, Margarete Gary and Debra Jarashow
Much research on the links between diet and health is still done on Western populations, but in historical terms the typical Western diet is highly unusual. This study conducted post-mortem analyses on 50 men from an African ethnic group, who ate mostly milk and meat, but who were physically very fit.

The oxidative desaturation of unsaturated fatty acids in animals
Publication date: 1974
Authors: Rodolfo R. Brenner
Brenner’s work on the biochemical reactions which process fatty acids in the body has been foundational to our current understanding of their effects. A key step in this processing is desaturation. This paper by Brenner discusses the mechanics of desaturation, and how the reaction can be affected by food intake.

Prevention of coronary heart disease: the role of essential fatty acids
Publication date: 1980
Authors: Hugh M Sinclair
Hugh Sinclair argued against the prevalent idea that all animal fats are harmful; he excepted the essential fatty acids ( EFA ). As he put it, ‘Eskimoes have a diet very high in fat but relatively very rich in EFA ; they do not get ischaemic heart disease.’

a-Linolenic acid as a regulator of the metabolism of arachidonic acid : dietary implications of the ratio, n-6: n-3 fatty acids
Publication date: 1985
Authors: P. Budowski and Michael A. Crawford
Shifting the emphasis from the ratio of unsaturated to saturated fat to the balance between unsaturated fats, the authors discussed the importance of the omega-6 : omega-3 ratio for the function of cell membranes, proposing that the omega-3 precursor alpha-linolenic acid can regulate the omega-6 pathways which produce arachidonic acid .

Effects of changes in fat, fish, and fibre intakes on death and myocardial reinfarction: Diet and reinfarction trial (DART)
Publication date: 1989
Authors: M.L. Burr, J.F. Gilbert, R.M. Holliday, P.C. Elwood, A.M. Fehily, S. Rogers, P.M. Sweetnam, N.M. Deadman
This large and influential clinical trial looked at the effects of giving dietary advice to men recovering from heart disease. Participants advised to eat more fish had a lower risk of dying over two years.

Determination of the optimal ratio of linoleic acid to α-linolenic acid in infant formulas
Publication date: 1992
Authors: Kristin J. Clark, Maria Makrides, Mark A. Neumann, Robert A. Gibson
A small study with big implications, this research assessed the effectiveness of formula milk, compared with breast milk, in getting essential fatty into the red blood cell membranes of healthy human babies.

Function of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids in the nervous system
Publication date: 1993
Authors: J.M. Bourre, M. Bonneil, M. Clément, O. Dumont, G. Durand, H. Lafont, G. Nalbone, M. Piciotti
Bourre and colleagues noted the particular importance of omega-3 fatty acids , and their proportions relative to omega-6s, in the first study to measure how PUFA levels in multiple organs changed as omega-6 dietary intake was varied.

Arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids are biosynthesized from their 18-carbon precursors in human infants
Publication date: 1996
Authors: N Salem, Jr, B Wegher, P Mena, and R Uauy
Salem and colleagues showed that newborn – including premature – human babies had the biochemical pathways required to convert the dietary essential fatty acids linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid into the fatty acids most used by brain tissues: arachidonic acid ( AA ) and docosahexaenoic acid ( DHA ).

Food intakes of US children and adolescents compared with recommendations
Publication date: 1997
Authors: Kathryn A. Muñoz, Susan M. Krebs-Smith, Rachel Ballard-Barbash and Linda E. Cleveland
This government-run survey of the eating habits of American youngsters compared their diets with national minimum recommendations for the five food groups of fruit, vegetables, grain, meat, and dairy. The study highlighted just how inadequate their diets were, with too much fat and added sugar, and not enough fruit, veg and grains. Only one in a hundred children ate as recommended for all food groups.

Movement of zinc and its functional significance in the brain
Publication date: 2000
Authors: Atsushi Takeda
Much work on essential micronutrients has focused on the fatty acids , but vitamins and minerals are also required. Takeda’s review raised awareness of one such trace element: zinc. Zinc levels in the brain are under strict control, as it is crucial for normal brain function and for protein synthesis; disruption can lead to stunted growth, cognitive deficits and seizures. The paper discussed how zinc is transported into the brain, and into neurons, what happens to it within neurons, and the functional implications (e.g. for epilepsy).

Influence of supplementary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids on the antisocial behaviour of young adult prisoners. Randomised, placebo -controlled trial
Publication date: 2002
Authors: C. Bernard Gesch, Sean M. Hammond, Sarah E. Hampson,
Anita Eves and Martin J. Crowder
This study found clear evidence of a link between dietary intake and violent behaviour during a well-designed trial of nutrient supplementation on UK prisoners,. Prisoners who were given supplements had significantly fewer disciplinary incidents than those who were not.

Phospholipid Spectrum Disorders in Psychiatry and Neurology
Publication date: 2003
Editors: Malcolm Peet, Iain Glen and David Horrobin
Every scientific discipline needs a textbook. The only book on our list, this ground-breaking work brought together many strands of work on fatty acid/ phospholipid biochemistry and its relationship to brain disorders, thereby helping to shape a distinct research field.

Effects of dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on brain gene expression
Publication date: 2004
Authors: Klára Kitajka, Andrew J. Sinclair, Richard S. Weisinger, Harrison S. Weisinger, Michael Mathai, Anura P. Jayasooriya, John E. Halver and László G. Puskás
Identifying arachidonic acid ( AA ) and docosahexaenoic acid ( DHA ) as the major fatty acid components of brain grey matter, this paper considered the mechanisms by which they exert their beneficial effects.

Origins and evolution of the Western diet: Health implications for the 21st century
Publication date: 2005
Authors: Loren Cordain, S Boyd Eaton, Anthony Sebastian, Neil Mann, Staffan Lindeberg, Bruce A Watkins, James H O’Keefe and Janette Brand-Miller
Cordain and colleagues discussed the history of human diets, especially in the post-industrial West. They identified seven important changes from what we presumably evolved to eat, and suggested that these may have much to do with chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes.

Increased levels of mercury associated with high fish intakes among children from Vancouver, Canada
Publication date: 2006
Authors: Sheila M. Innis, Jan Palaty, Ziba Vaghri and Gillian Lockitch
Most nutrition experts would recommend eating the natural food (e.g. fish) over taking a supplement (e.g. fish oil), but this paper raised the alarm about a possible problem of eating fish: contamination with the dangerous heavy metal mercury, which can poison children and affect their long-term brain development.

Nutrition and the developing brain: Nutrient priorities and measurement
Publication date: 2007
Authors: Michael K Georgieff
This substantial paper reviewed research into the effects of various nutrients, including zinc, copper and iron, on the developing brain. It provided a useful reminder of the difficulty of the science, and set down some guiding principles for how to proceed.

Brain foods: The effects of nutrients on brain function
Publication date: 2008
Authors: Fernando Gómez-Pinilla
A review in Nature Reviews Neuroscience carries considerable weight, and in 2008 this ‘Perspective’ made it clear that the study of nutrients’ effects on mental health and cognition, as well as on physical health, was now being taken seriously in scientific terms.

Fats and fatty acids in human nutrition. Report of an expert consultation
Publication date: 2010
Authors: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
This report, by the influential Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, provided a framework document for the field of fatty acid research, setting out recommended intake levels for saturated and unsaturated fats, trans fats, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids . The report did not recommend a specific omega-6 : omega-3 ratio. It did offer a lengthy summary of the state of research at the time, covering growth, development and disease, basic physiological mechanisms, food content, and the types of processing used by the food industry.

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