As I’ve described in previous posts, flaxseed oil (high in omega-3) seems to improve my balance. As I increased the daily dose, I found that 4 tablespoons (T)/day had almost the same effect as 3 T/day. To measure the effects of omega-3, I plan to use 3 or 4 T/day flaxseed oil — which presumably produces near-optimal omega-3 levels — as a baseline for measuring the effect of other things.
For my first comparison I chose olive oil: widely believed healthy, but low in omega-3. (And recommended by me in The Shangri-La Diet.) I used an ABA design: several days flaxseed oil, several days olive oil, several days flaxseed oil. In all conditions, I took 2 tablespoons of the oil at about 10 am and 2 tablespoons at about 10 pm each day. I measured my balance at about 8 am the next day. Each daily test consisted of 30 trials. Each trial consisted of balancing on one foot on a board atop a metal cylinder (pictures). The score was how long before I lost my balance and put the other foot down.
Here are the results.
While drinking the olive oil, my balance slowly got worse. When I returned to flaxseed oil, my balance quickly returned to its previous level. Very clear difference between the oils, F(2,40) = 18, which corresponds to a tiny p value and t about 5.
A possible explanation is that when the concentration of omega-3 in the blood is low, the omega-3 in cell membranes slowly “evaporates” into the blood. When a cell’s membranes lose omega-3, it doesn’t work as well.