Did you know that your brain is 66.6% fat? That’s two-thirds of the brain tissue is made up of fat. Wow! I didn’t know that! At least it’s refreshing to know that I have a fat head 🙂
The membranes of neurons are composed of a thin layer of fatty acids. The fatty acids are taken from the fat you ingest. During digestion, the fat is broken down into fatty acid molecules which provide the building blocks. These membranes must allow oxygen, glucose and nutrients in, and waste material out.
There is also a protective layer over neurons, myelin, which is composed of 30%protein and 70% fat. One of the most common fatty acids in myelin is oleic acid. Apart from human milk, the other sources of oleic acid are olive oil, almonds, avocados and some other nuts. Some good animal sources would be chicken and turkey fat (37–56%) and lard (44-47%).
As a side note, oleic acid is also responsible for reducing blood pressure and bad cholesterol.
So, to build brain cells you need fatty acids. There are 2 kinds of fatty acids that are essential – in other words, your body cannot make them and has to obtain them from food. The first on is Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which which makes up the omega-3 family of fatty acids. The second kind is Linoleic acid (LA) which is the foundation of omega-6 fatty acids. From these two building blocks, the brain can make other, more complex, or longer chained fatty acids that make up the membranes.
One of the longer chained fatty acid is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which is the most common in the brain. Decline of DHA concentrations in the brain are directly impacting cognitive ability in the negative way. There are even some studies that link DHA loss to depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Furthermore, some studies have shown that it is the imbalance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids that leads to many mental disorders. While the required balance is 1:1, the typical western diet has 20:1 in favour of omega-6.
Other studies that have focused on intelligence, show that DHA in the diet actually boosts IQ. However, there is one type of fat that disrupts brain communication and causes brain cells to degenerate. It is the man-made partially hydrogenised fat, otherwise known as trans fat.
To sum it all up, if you want to be smarter, load up on healthy fats like cold-pressed olive oil, fatty fish, nuts and avocados and stay away from all man-made shortenings and spreads containing trans fats.
As another side note, the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s in hemp seed oil is 3:1, which is much better than any other oil or product on the market.