There are currently some fascinating and ground-breaking results coming of Cambridge University. Professor Simon Baron-Cohen has researching the effects of hormones on brain growth and behaviour. He is best known for his work on autism, including his theory that autism is an extreme form of the "male brain". He has added to the growing body of evidence that testosterone retards the neural development of the left side of the brain and this detrimentally alters behaviour. Interestingly it is his cousin, Sasha Baron-Cohen who creates for the screen such extreme examples of the retarded human behaviour in question. A talented family.
The so-called 'masculisation' of the brain is effectively damage to the left hemisphere of the brain. It is the steroid hormone estradiol that causes this. Estradiol is made from testosterone by the enzyme aromatase. The degree of masculisation therefore is affected by the amount of free testosterone available and the degree of aromatase activity. This damage has occurred to all our left hemispheres – it is just more pronounced in general in men and also some individuals due to higher levels of testosterone. These two factors could account for the higher frequency of left-handedness, also the greater range of intelligence levels including both genius and learning disabilities in males.
The activity of aromatase is inhibited by plant flavonoids and also melatonin. Humans are currently experiencing a deficit of both flavonoids and melatonin. This leads to more aromatase activity, which in turn leads to increased masculisation of the brain and, at the extreme end of the spectrum, autism which is on the increase. (Autism is of course a complex syndrome with probably many factors involved but it seems this is a major one.)
The research of Katherine Milton on the dietary ecology of primates, human ancestors and modern humans shows how much lower in important plant compounds our diet is now compared with ancestral diets and those of other primates. Studies by her on primate nutrition suggest we have lost more than 95% of the complex plant chemicals and nutrients that fueled our development as human beings. We know that in the past our diet would have included abundant amount of fruit and that the flavonoids in fruit inhibit the activity of aromatase. The likely link between a change in diet over the millennia and the retardation of the left hemisphere of the brain can be clearly seen.
Flavonoids are known as endocrine disrupters – as we have seen they change the hormonal balance in our brains and bodies. And this changes the way DNA is read to build a baby in it's mother's womb. There are many examples of how a change in hormone levels can affect transcription of DNA and change our bodies and brains. The transformation at puberty is an obvious one. There is an illustration of the power of a change in the way the DNA is read at www.beyond-belief.org.uk:
There are parallels with the transformation of a worker bee into a queen by the increased ingestion of royal jelly. The epigenetic effect of royal jelly on a worker bee during the development of a single generation is quite astounding. If a chemical cocktail with the ability to effectively re-interpret the way the DNA code is read were present 24/7 during the evolution of an organism the results would be equally spectacular. A complete re-design and re-engineering at a molecular and cellular level through to a major re-organisation of development, form and function.
Our original higher flavonoid levels kept our neurotransmitter levels higher because many of them are monoamine oxidase inhibitors (see page on Why Raw). These stimulated the pineal gland to produce more of its hormones including melatonin. Currently the pineal is chronically under-active and are melatonin levels are lower than would be optimal for our day to day health and the transcribing (reading) of the DNA blueprint. This is one reason melatonin is ant-aging.
Elevated rates of testosterone-related disorders in women with autism spectrum conditions
Erin Ingudomnukul, Simon Baron-Cohen, Sally Wheelwright, Rebecca Knickmeyer
The Empathy Quotient: An Investigation of Adults with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, and Normal Sex Differences
Simon Baron-Cohen and Sally Wheelwright
Cerebral dominance: the biological foundations
Norman Geschwind, Albert M. Galaburda 1984
Back to Basics: Why Foods of Wild Primates have Relevance for Modern Human Health
Katherine Milton PhD
Nutrtional Charactersitics of Wild Primate foods: Do the Diets of our Closest Living Relatives Have Lessons for Us
Micronutrient intakes of wild primates: are humans different?