How Fish Oil Prevents Heart Disease?

Fat is a key nutrient in our diet and is often the first thing you may note on a food label. Most foods contain a mixture of many different types of fat: the commonest are saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats. Polyunsaturated fats are divided into two major families: omega-6 and omega-3’s. Are some good and some bad.? This conundrum is often debated among nutritionists and still a definitive answer remains elusive.

What exactly are the omega-6 and omega 3 fats?
We have to begin with the polyunsaturated essential fatty acids, linoleic (omega-6) (LA)  and alpha linolenic acids (omega-three) (ALA). They are called essential because they cannot be made in the body and must be acquired from the diet.
Linoleic acid (LA) is required for growth, healthy skin and normal functioning of the reproductive system and is a structural part of cell membranes.  Foods high in omega 6 fats include unhealthy foods like processed snacks, fast foods, cakes, fatty meats, and cured meats. Other omega 6 foods are healthy including tofu, walnuts, and peanut butter. They are also prevalent in vegetable oils, like corn oil, safflower, sunflower and soybean oils. Linoleic acid is converted in the body to another fatty acid called arachidonic acid (AA). Food sources of AA include meat, poultry, and eggs.
Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) is also a structural compound of cell membranes and found in high amounts in the brain. Alpha linolenic acid is found in walnuts, dark, leafy green vegetables, flaxseed and chia seeds, canola and soybean oils. However, this post is primarily associated with fish oil and heart risks.
ALA is converted in the body to two more fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DHA) which is what you find on fish oil supplement labels. This conversion rate of ALA to EPA can be slow and may depend on many factors, one being the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.
EPA and DHA are found in fish, krill, and algae oil capsules as well as in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, herring and trout. The AI for omega-3 fatty acids is 1.6 grams (men) and 1.1 g (women).
Arachidonic acid and EPA are necessary for making hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids, hormone-like compounds that participate in regulation of blood pressure, blood clotting, inflammation, and a host of other important body functions.

So, the major players so far are: LA, ALA, AA, EPA, and DHA.

What is the omega-6/omega-3 ratio?
It is not enough to consume adequate levels of omega-3 fats but to avoid over-consumption of omega-6 fatty acids. Most modern diets contain excessive amounts of omega-6s and insufficient amounts of omega-3s. Americans regularly eat vegetable oils but eat fish infrequently, so we end up with many more omega-6s and fewer omega-3s.
The optimal 6 to 3 ratio approaches 4:1 that may be difficult for some people in our current food environment to achieve, so we try for 4:1 in hopes of realistically attaining less than 10:1. On average in the U.S., the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is a disastrous 16:1. Soybean oil, an omega-6 is so ubiquitous in the food supply that an astounding percent of calories from fat in the American diet (especially processed foods) are estimated to come from this single omega-6 source.

How Do Eicosanoids Affect Health?
Omega-6 fatty acids produce eicosanoids that tend to favor higher blood pressure, more blood clotting, and inflammatory compounds in the body.  They are often referred to as “bad” eicosanoids.
Omega-3 fatty acids produce eicosanoids with opposing healthier effects, i.e., lower blood pressure, less blood clotting, and anti-inflammatory effects.  They are often referred to a “good” eicosanoids.
Eicosanoids from omega-3 EPA can diminish the effects of the “bad” eicosanoids by producing opposing compounds that will help tip the ratio back to a more favorable eicosanoid environment in the cell.
Another way to improve the fatty acid ratio is to help block excess arachidonic acid formation. By making sure your body has an adequate amount of EPA that acts as an inhibitor of the enzyme that can produces the “bad” eicosanoids.   The higher the EPA in the diet, the more the enzyme is inhibited, and the less “bad” eicosanoids are produced.
The problem with vegetable oils
“Vegetable oils that turn rancid easily have been used since lard was designated as having a high saturated fat content when the low-fat craze to prevent heart disease was in full swing. The troubled history of these oils has never been resolved.  In a series of workshops in the 1980’s, it was observed that using diets high in soybean oil showed subjects dying of cancer at very high rates. Gallstones were also associated with diets high in vegetable oils. Subsequent research demonstrated that these oils that are high in omega-6, compete with the healthier omega-3’s found in fish virtually at important spots in every cell membrane throughout the body, including those in the brain.” (Nina Teicholz,

The Big Fat Surprise
The vast amount of omega-6 that has entered our food supply via vegetable oils appear to have literally swamped the omega-3’s (the supply of which has remained relatively constant over the past century. (Teicholz,  page 275-6). Conversely, the American Heart Association encourages Americans to eat more vegetable oils due to their ability to lower LDL-cholesterol (the bad cholesterol.)
Nonetheless, excessive intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6, has several risks. The double bonds in the fatty acid molecules are very reactive. They tend to react with oxygen, forming chain reactions of free radicals. These free radicals can cause cell damage, which is one of the mechanisms behind aging and the onset of cancer.

If you want to improve your ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, it’s probably a bad idea to eat a lot of omega-3 to compensate. Having a relatively low, balanced amount of each is best. Using olive oil in salad dressings and coconut oil for cooking is recommended. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat and coconut oil is more stable since it has more saturated fat content. Neither are part of the omega-6 or omega-3 families.

What to Take Away from all this:
Linoleic acid (LA), an omega-6 fatty acid, and α-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, are considered essential fatty acids because they cannot be made in the body by humans.
Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are important structural components of cell membranes, serve as precursors to eicosanoids and provide a source of energy. Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in particular exert anti-inflammatory effects; it is recommended to increase their presence in the diet.
The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), can be synthesized from ALA, but due to low conversion efficiency, it is recommended to consume foods rich in EPA and DHA or consume fewer omega-6 foods.

Medscape News

Can taking vitamin D supplements help prevent dementia?

Scientists say there may be an interesting link between vitamin D supplements and dementia.

  • Researchers assessed the association between vitamin D supplementation and the incidence of dementia.
  • They found that vitamin D supplementation was linked to a lower dementia incidence.
  • Further studies are needed to certify the results.

Over 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, which is expected to rise to 139 million by 2050Trusted Source. There are currentlyTrusted Source no medications that can stop or reverse the condition.

Interventions that can affect dementia risk factors are being explored to slow disease progression. One such risk factor is vitamin D deficiency.

Some studies have found that vitamin D may aid the clearance of amyloid beta aggregates—one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, studies have produced conflicting results on whether vitamin D improves cognitive function.

Other studiesTrusted Source show that low vitamin D levels are linked to a greater risk of dementia and AD.

Further studying the link between vitamin D supplementation and cognitive decline could help develop preventative strategies for dementia.

Recently, researchers assessed the link between vitamin D supplementation and incident dementia. They found that vitamin D supplementation is linked to lower incidence of dementia.

The study was published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease MonitoringTrusted Source.

Note: A word of caution – please discuss news like this with your primary care physician or a certificated registered nutritionist. We also make Vitamin D from sun exposure. It is also found in fortified milk, some fish, and fortified cereals.

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and stored in the body. The consequences of overdose are: metal retardation in children, abnormal bone growth and formation, nausea, diarrhea, irritability, deposition of calcium in organs such as kidney, liver, and heart.

Toxicity is possible with long-term use of 10,000 IU daily. Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now, 7th Edition.

Sally Feltner, MS, PhD.

Peanuts and Vascular Health

Here’s why eating peanuts is so important for good blood flow
March 28, 2023
by John Anderer
BARCELONA, Spain — When it comes to snacking, many studies already show peanuts are a healthy choice and great source of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Now, new research out of Spain suggests people should be eating more peanuts and peanut butter — even if they’re young and healthy! Scientists from the University of Barcelona report that peanuts may have a beneficial impact on vascular health in young and healthy individuals.
Peanuts come from the leguminous plant Arachis hypogaea. They’re the most widely consumed nuts around the world. Peanuts are high in fatty acids, protein, fiber, and polyphenols — making them a convenient, accessible, and nutrient-rich snack that can contribute to a healthy lifestyle instead of hindering one’s fitness goals.

Traditionally, most nutritional studies focus on analyzing any and all significant differences among people with a high risk of suffering from a disease, especially older people. For this population profile, however, researchers say it is easier to observe potential beneficial effects by altering dietary patterns or introducing a healthy food into their usual diets.

This project included 63 healthy young people, all between ages of 18 and 33. They had to add a daily portion of peanut products to their regular diets for six months.
“In this study group, it is more difficult to see any effect of dietary changes on health,” says Professor Rosa M. Lamuela, from the UB Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Gastronomy, in a university release.

What do peanuts do for the blood?
This study is the first ever nutritional intervention to confirm that vascular markers improved in relation to both antithrombotic (reducing blood clots) and vasodilator (dilating blood vessels) effects among healthy young people after eating peanuts.
“The results reveal a significant increase in urinary levels of phenolic metabolites in those young people who had eaten a daily dose of peanuts and peanut butter compared to the control group, which had eaten a cream without fiber or polyphenols,” Prof. Lamuela explains. “Similarly, participants who ate peanuts or peanut butter also showed improved levels of prostacyclin I2 and the ratio between thromboxane A2 and prostacyclin I2, lipid molecules (eicosanoids) which are considered markers of vascular health.”

“Interestingly, some phenolic metabolites that increased significantly after the consumption of peanut products —especially hydroxycinnamic acids— also correlated with the improvement in both markers,” adds researcher Isabella Parilli-Moser (INSA-UB-CIBERobn), first author of the study.
These findings further reinforce a hypothesis often defended in scientific literature and previous studies by the research team regarding the protective effect of polyphenols on cardiovascular diseases in adults, as well as their effects on blood vessels. Polyphenols are the primary dietary antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, according to the team.

Moreover, studies show eating nuts and peanuts has a link to a lower risk of developing both cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, especially due to the protective effect of the polyphenols in such foods. All in all, while this work suggests peanuts can benefit vascular health, more research is necessary before scientists can form a full understanding of all the factors at play.
“We need more studies to fully understand the mechanisms that explain the positive effects of peanut consumption on vascular health,” researchers conclude.
The findings appear in the journal Antioxidants.

Covid and Fish Oil?

Salmon and vegetables on a dinner plate
Salmon and other seafood types are one of the best foods for protein.(Photo by cattalin on

Covid-19 News

Still worried about COVID? Eating more oily fish may protect you

March 17, 2023

by Shyla Cadogan

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Oily fish are a part of many healthy diets, mainly because of the omega-3 fatty acids they carry. Studies show they have the ability to boost brain health and may even reduce the risk of heart disease. Now, there’s even more reason to add salmon or sardines to your diet. Scientists report that omega-3 fatty acids can also help protect against severe cases of COVID-19.

A team of researchers from the Fatty Acid Research Institute and the University of South Dakota designed a study that compared the risk for three COVID-19 scenarios: testing positive, hospitalization, and death as a function of baseline plasma DHA levels. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid, which is abundant in fish like salmon. EPA is another fatty acid also found in oily fish. The team examined the implications of adding both to someone’s diet.

They measured the percent of total fatty acids (DHA levels) using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and converted them into an Omega-3 Index, which includes the percentages of red blood cell EPA and DHA for actual analysis. Their work included information from a sample of 110,584 people (COVID hospitalizations and deaths), as well as 26,595 individuals with just a positive test result, pulled from the UK Biobank. The outcomes were assessed from January 2020 to March 2021.

High omega-3 levels cut down COVID risk by a fifth

After fully adjusting their models to account for other variables that could affect the results, the team found that those with the highest omega-3 index were 21 percent less likely to test positive for COVID than those with the lowest levels. The risk for a positive test was actually eight percent lower for every standard deviation increase in plasma DHA percentage. Additionally, patients with the highest omega-3 index were 26 percent less likely to need hospitalization than those with the lowest.

Among patients who died of COVID-19, trends weren’t as significant. Risk of severe infection was lower in those with the second highest omega-3 index. In the highest bracket, the risk reduction was actually minimal and statistically insignificant.

Sardines packaged on ice
(Photo by Harris Vo on Unsplash)

“This study confirms previous findings that low omega-3 status is associated with increased risk for hospitalization with COVID-19. We extended these findings by also showing reduced risk for testing positive with the infection and by providing evidence that the risk for death may also be reduced,” says Dr. William S. Harris, President of Fatty Acid Research Institute, in a media release. “Furthermore, we identified the Omega-3 Index levels associated with the least and greatest protection from COVID-19. Altogether these results support the practice of increasing consumption of oily fish like salmon or omega-3 fish oil supplements as a potential risk reduction strategy when it comes to COVID-19.”

Certain countries enjoy even great protection

The team adds that there seems to be a global pattern as well, as found in previous work. South Korea and Japan have both reported very low severity of COVID-19. Although these countries are very diligent about masking, social distancing, and other spread mitigation practices, there is a fascinating connection between Omega-3 Index values of healthy South Korean and Japanese individuals and COVID-19 outcomes. In these nations, indexes are about 8-12 percent and 7-11 percent respectively, which is significantly higher than the 4-5 percent in Western countries like the United States.

“A worldwide pattern linking higher omega-3 fatty acid intakes with lower rates of death with COVID-19 was documented by Vivar-Sierra et al. Although only suggestive, this observation adds further support for a potential role of omega-3s EPA and DHA in the prevention of fatal COVID-19 disease,” the study authors report.

These findings back the notion that including omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is essential for a well-rounded, healthy diet. However, they also show that by possibly reducing severe infections from COVID-19, there may be even more of an incentive to getting enough in your daily diet.

The findings are published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19 symptoms, fish oil, oily fish, omega-3

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About the Author

Shyla Cadogan

Shyla Cadogan is a recent graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition and Food Science. She is on her way to becoming a Registered Dietitian, with next steps being completion of a dietetic internship at the University of Maryland Medical Center where she currently is gaining experience with various populations and areas of medical nutrition such as Pediatrics, Oncology, GI surgery, and liver and renal transplant. Shyla also has extensive research experience in food composition analysis and food resource management.

Mediterranean Diet and Dementia?

“There are around 50 million dementia cases globally, with around 10 million new cases discovered by doctors every year. Alzheimer’s disease makes up 50 to 70 percent of those cases. Its development and progression have links with both genetic and environmental factors, including diet and lifestyle.”

The Mediterranean Diet scores have high marks again when assessed for dietary effects on dementia.

The American Plate: 1910’s

The Supermarket

A Hungry Nation on the Move

The decade reflected high living, high prices, the introduction of income taxes, women’s suffrage, World War 1, an influenza pandemic that killed between 20 million and 50 million people and prohibition. “Secretary of State Williams Jennings Bryan, a Prohibitionist, served grape juice instead of wine at a 1913 dinner for the British ambassador. By 1919, the Temperance League had won out and the sale and distribution of alcohol was banned. In 1920, saloons were shuttered, and distilleries closed.”

Cooking For Health???

Coca Cola had entered the food market in 1910; at the same time, Nathan franks entered the culture that now included, railroads with deluxe dining, grocery stores, frozen foods and refrigerators.

By 1912 an organic substance (later named vitamin) is discovered by American chemist, Casimer Funk. 

In 1894, the USDA published its first food recommendations through a Farmers’ Bulletin, suggesting diets for males based on content of protein, carbohydrate, fat and mineral matter. In 1916, Caroline Hunt, a nutritionist, wrote the first USDA food guide, Food for Young Children. Milk and meat, cereals, vegetables and fruits, fats and fatty foods, and sugars and sugary foods made up five food groups. Then How to Select Foods addressed recommendations for the general public based on those five food groups in 1917. (Can you believe the fat and sugary foods groups ???

Crisco Sandwich? 

“Proctor and Gamble introduced Crisco, the first solid vegetable shortening. The product is hard to sell to women who had been taught to cook with lard and/or butter. To promote its produce, the manufacturer suggested glazing sweet potatoes with brown sugar and Crisco and spreading sandwiches with Crisco mixed with an egg yolk.” YUM!!!

Convenience: Self-service Grocery Stores

In 1912, change began to replace the grocery store with self-service “supermarkets”.  Previously, a shopper would hand a list to the clerk to retrieve the items from shelves behind the counter – a time-consuming process. George Hartford established the first Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. which he called the A&P “Economy Store”. A clerk still took the orders, but the store did not offer credit or delivery and saved costs with lower prices. In Memphis, Clarence Saunders continued the trend in 1916 when he began the Piggly Wiggly chain. Customers followed a serpentine route past all 600-plus items on shelves (a huge selection for the time) but there were still long lines. Still, this process began the key factors  in the emergence of distinctive packaging, advertising, and brand recognition. Everything from pasta to tamales went into cans, the technology for electric refrigeration was developed, and the frozen-food industry got its start.

People Were Talking About….

Clarence Birdseye, who after spending a winter in Newfoundland, noticed that fish caught and left in the frigid air froze immediately and tasted good after being thawed and cooked. This inspired him to pioneer the commercial frozen food industry.

George Washington Carver and the 300-plus products he developed based on peanuts and the 118 products based on sweet potatoes. His research gave southern farmers ruined by boll weevil infestations a reason to plant crops other than cotton.

Luther Burbank and his 12-volume work, Luther Burbank: His Methods and Discoveries and Their Practical Applications. Burbank’s  extensive cross-breeding of plants led to the development of the Burbank,  or russet potato, which would make Idaho famous.

Household Appliances

This decade was the era of household appliances.  “Middle-class households were used to having at least one live-in servant. As household help began to leave for better jobs, housewives had to do for themselves – a monumental task. For example, the laundry which was a two-day affair. The arrival of mechanical help is heaven sent. An item as mundane as a porcelain range – no more blackening, no more polishing removed one two-hour chore. By 1911 electric chafing dishes, skillets, grills, toasters, percolators, waffle irons, and stand-up mixers were introduced along with the very welcomed electric ranges, and basic refrigerators, invented in 1915.”

Must have been a very Merry Christmas for these ladies!

The Obesity Pandemic: A ReBlog

The Obesity/Diabesity Pandemic

Obesity is a major risk factor for the development of  type 2 diabetes mellitus, so much so that the epidemic is often called diabesity. It has been described as one of the most important crises that has invaded our public health system.

Global Statistics,  Source: Lancet

  • Since 1980, the number of adults with diabetes worldwide has quadrupled from 108 million to 422 million in 2014.
  • Diabetes is fast becoming a major problem in low and middle-income countries.
  • From 1980 to 2014, the prevalence of diabetes more than doubles for men in India and China.
  • Half of adults worldwide with diabetes in 2014 lived in five countries: China, India, USA, Brazil and Indonesia.

So what are some solutions?  

The standard American diet is in much need of an overhaul and our national food systems need to change if we wish to reverse or at least slow down this trend. Many say that it would take the same determination as the campaigns to change behaviors that were utilized during the campaigns against smoking. .

Prevention awareness should be first on the front lines of treating the people with prediabetes that can often be reversible using lifestyle modifications. There are already some prevention models in the community; however, these should be expanded so that they become more easily accessible to more people. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) uses intensive behavioral therapy to help people lose a little bit of weight (typically 5-10%). When this program is followed, the number of people progressing to have diabetes comes down by more than half. In people over 60, the reduction was 70%.

Nutrition education should be incorporated into the school system in the early years to help young children understand the importance of knowing where our food comes from and why nutritious foods are the best choice. They can be taught about balanced eating, calories, reading labels and grocery shopping. Nutrition education can also be offered at the middle and high schools levels by returning to a revamped and modernized home economics course in the curriculum. 

A lingering problem has existed for many primary care physicians for many years in that they say they were never adequately prepared in nutrition principles in medical schools. In a survey of family physicians (2009), two thirds said that dealing with extremely obese patients is “frustrating “and one-half said treatments are often ineffective. This is reflected by a lack off obesity training.

Shockingly, another survey in 2010 of 140 doctors revealed that nearly one-third were not even familiar with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) prediabetes guidelines. Only 6 percent were able to identify all 11 risk factors and on average, the doctors could only identify just eight of the warning signs. Only 17 percent knew the correct laboratory values for blood glucose and only 11 percent said they would refer a patient to a behavioral weight loss program..

There should be an increased access to professional treatments. Medical professionals not trained in obesity management should refer their patients to outside providers such as dietitians, exercise trainers, behavior therapists, psychologists, or a new concept of health coaches. These providers should be trained, certified, and credentialed to protect the public from unscrupulous treatments and to provide quality care. Reimbursement of qualified health professionals needs to be enhanced to keep. Otherwise patient volume high and they lessen out-of-pocket expenses.

We have become a nation of non-cooks and prefer to have our meals prepared by someone else. Encourage home cooking and home kit meals to help to counter using fast foods and packaged highly processed meals loaded with calories, fat, sugar and salt.

Educate the public on food labeling including ingredient lists. Beware of food companies that promote products with a “health halo” meaning exaggerated claims are made that appear to make unhealthy foods seem healthy because of an added nutrient or ingredient. Corporations also mislead consumers with their labeling so they include four different types of sugar to keep sugar from being listed as the first ingredient. This is misleading to the consumer when attempting to make wise food choices.

Stop corporate-government partnerships and diminish lobbying.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is funded by myriad food companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Kellogg’s. The dairy industry has a long history of influencing the food pyramid and Dietary Guidelines. A good example is the placing of a glass of milk on the MyPlate Logo.

Another health organization guilty of taking in millions from food companies is the American Heart Association. They offer a “Heart – Check logo for a price: $5, 490 to $7,500 that is renewable for another fee annually. The product has to be low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol to gain this “honor.” However, some products such as Boar’s Head processed meats have the logo and still may still contain high levels of sodium. If the AHA were sincere in their efforts to help consumers choose healthier foods to rein in obesity/diabetes, they would realize that research has shown that a 1.8 oz. daily serving of processed meat raised the risk of diabetes by 19 percent and heart disease by 42 percent. Most current dietary recommendations emphasize a reduction in processed meats (my emphasis).

There is bad news on rising obesity rates – read about them HERE.

It will take a concerted effort from government, politics, industry, communities, and consumers and the perpetrators of our obesigenic culture to begin to change this trend.

Why do some people get Covid more severely than others?

COVID-19 strikes with alarming inconsistency. Most recover quickly while others die. The disease devastates some communities and spares others. Understanding why and how COVID-19 preys on some and not others is essential to limiting its spread and mitigating its impact.

Prevention, averting, detecting, and restricting disease, is always better than even the most effective treatment. In the first place, We need answers to verify the findings of any new promising study.

Ever wonder why some places on the globe suffer from the virus so differently than others? Can the Blue Zones populations give us some answers?

Can Ultraprocessed Food Contribute to Dementia?

 Is Eating Fast Food a Dementia Risk? 

The health risks of eating ultraprocessed foods —including sausages and burgers as well as pizza and ice cream — are well documented. They have been shown to raise the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cancer among other ailments. ( 

In a new study, researchers followed more than 10,000 Brazilians with an average age of 51 for more than 10 years. They found that people who consumed more than 20% of their daily calories from ultra processed foods had a 28% faster cognitive decline compared with those whose intake was less than 20%.  Unfortunately, that 20% is not a high threshold: just 400 calories out of the 2000 calorie diet. And most Americans are well over that, getting on average a whopping 58% of their calories from ultraprocessed foods.

 “The sample size is substantial and the followup extensive,” says Dr. David Katz, a nutrition specialist who was not involved in the study. While short of proof, this is robust enough that we should conclude ultraprocessed foods are probably bad for our brains,” 

Source: The Week. December 23, 2022, Volume 22, Issue 110.