Born in a time of war, Udo Erasmus learned early in life that things could get really bad.
Now in his 70s, the expert on nutritional fats and oils was only two years old when his family fled Poland in the winter of 1945. His mother was alone with six children in tow; four were her own and two others were orphans. Her husband had been imprisoned by the Allies. Along the way, she had a difficult decision to make if they were to survive.
She left four of the children with a farmer so she could make it to Germany with the other two. Erasmus was one of those left behind; an aunt had to retrieve them later. His father rejoined the family when he was four. The Erasmuses came to Canada in 1952.
This harsh experience during and after the war continues to inform Erasmus’s thinking about human health and global peace. These concerns are inseparable for the Vancouver-based formulator of the Udo’s Choice line of blended oils.
“We know what it is when it’s bad, but we think very little about how good we could make it,” Erasmus said about health and human relations.
When the Georgia Straight spoke with the author of the 1993 book Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill at Granville Island, he was preparing for a talk. He will be one of eight speakers at a two-day conference on brain health and mental excellence organized by the Gift of Life Foundation, a Richmond-based group that provides financial assistance to people seeking conventional and alternative medical treatments; the BrainSolutions Conference will be held at the Vancouver Convention Centre on August 24 and 25.
“The brain is the computer for all of it,” Erasmus said about its role in the human body. He stated that in order for the brain to work properly, it should be built properly.
According to the Franklin Institute, a Philadelphia-based museum and centre for science education, about two-thirds of the brain is fatty acids.
“Two kinds of fatty acids are considered ‘essential’, which means you must get these essential fatty acids (EFAs) from the food you eat,” states the institute’s website. “Your body cannot manufacture them.”
The first is alpha-linolenic acid, or omega-3. Its sources include flaxseed, walnuts, and green, leafy vegetables, as well as fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and trout.
The second is linoleic acid, or omega-6. It comes from sunflower and sesame seeds, among other things.
According to the Franklin Institute, some researchers believe a lack of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may lead to mental disorders like hyperactivity, depression, and schizophrenia.
Flax, sunflower, and sesame seeds are the main sources of the blended oils Erasmus developed. Flax is the richest source of omega-3, which he said is also beneficial for liver, kidney, and other physiological functions.
Erasmus related that when he was starting his research on fats and oils during the 1980s, he learned that people in modern times are getting only one-sixth the amount of omega-3 that folks got 150 years ago.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, growth, and development.
The centre also notes that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may have low levels of certain essential fatty acids. “More research is needed, but eating foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids is a reasonable approach for someone with ADHD,” it states online.
Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of flax. The industry-based Flax Council of Canada’s website states that more than 70 percent of the fat in flax is of the “healthful polyunsaturated type”.
When he delivers his talk at this month’s conference, Erasmus won’t just be discussing brain construction. His presentation will also cover brain “instruction”, including his thoughts about how the human mind can make a harmonious world.
“If peace was part of my mission on this planet,” Erasmus said, “what better way to get prepared for it than to be in a war situation where I learned very early what happens when people don’t deliberately cultivate peace in their lives when they can.”