How Important Is Fat to the Health of the Brain?


How Important Is Fat to the Health of the Brain?

The brain is made up of more than 50 percent fat—up to 70–80 percent of its dry weight.

The body’s highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids are in the brain

Up to one-quarter of the human brain’s fatty acid stores are DHA, a component of omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in cold-water fish oils and meats of exclusively pasture-fed animals or wild game.

Humans are unique among primates in this regard; the brains of chimps and other primates are dominated by omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids, conversely, are entirely essential, and vital to the normal electrical functioning and the cardiovascular, joint, immune system, and gastrointestinal health of the human brain and nervous system.

Omega-3 fatty acids are utterly vital for proper and efficient intercellular communication and anti-inflammatory processes.

The consumption of usable carbohydrates and the presence of elevated levels of insulin, however, disrupt omega-3 metabolism and cause the body to lose magnesium, a mineral needed for the conversion of EPA to DHA, which is the storage molecule of omega-3 fatty acids in the brain and vital to all functions there.

Insulin also tends to divert prostaglandin production to more proinflammatory omega-6 fatty acid pathways.

It’s also noteworthy that fully 50 percent of the fat found in the human brain is in the form of saturated fat, which is greatly needed for the protection and stabilization of the delicate, polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids.

The brain also makes important use of arachidonic acid (which is much vilified).

A variety of natural fats always work together to synergize and optimize functioning throughout the body and brain.

According to Leonard et al. 2003, as much as 10 percent of human brain size has been lost in just the last century alone, likely as the result of decreased amounts of available dietary EPA and DHA and increased consumption of processed foods.

Cholesterol, too, is downright critical for healthy brain function.

Few people realize that the human body’s richest repository for cholesterol lies in the brain.

The brain occupies only about 2 percent of the body’s total mass, but it houses fully 25 percent of the body’s total cholesterol

Cholesterol enhances signal transport and the functioning of the synapses of our brain cells and protects this bioelectrical signal from “leakage” in the myelin sheath.

Cholesterol, functioning as an antioxidant, actually helps protect brain cells from oxidative damage and helps maintain the integrity of the delicate polyunsaturated fatty acids that compose it.

Sufficient dietary and cellular cholesterol is critical for healthy cognitive and memory function.

Some of the more common side effects of statin drugs are impaired cognitive function and memory and even dementia-like symptoms.

The loss of magnesium through blood sugar surges, together with the absence of adequate dietary magnesium or poor hydrochloric acid production and digestion, allows for the binding of structurally related but toxic elements, such as aluminum, to vacant receptor sites in the brain.

Elevated aluminum levels in the brain, of course, have also been associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Magnesium, in addition, controls over three hundred enzymes in the body and mind.

It is critical for maintaining healthy parasympathetic functioning, which produces a calm, relaxed nervous system, and is commonly deficient in people consuming a high-carbohydrate diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids may be the single most commonly deficient nutrient in the modern human, particularly Western diet.

Supplementation with fish oils today provides the most reliable and affordable source of both EPA and DHA, which are omega-3 fatty acids’ most important derivatives.

Antarctic krill oil is another source of EPA and DHA, and it is potentially even more highly effective, though much more expensive.

Antarctic krill oil contains unique phospholipids and antioxidants, which are not present in fish oil, that may better facilitate its absorption, preservation, and use, and it can be a viable alternative to fish oil for some people who are willing to pay significantly more.

Our ancestors performed EPA and DHA by consuming large quantities of naturally and exclusively grass-fed wild game and organ meats and wild-caught, cold-water fish, where available.

Overcooking rapidly denatures and destroys these oils, as they are highly polyunsaturated.

Deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids are often particularly pronounced in people with depression, insulin resistance, obesity, bipolar disorder, cardiovascular disease, and ADD/ADHD, and supplementation has been shown at times to markedly benefit people with these conditions.

Fish oils are overwhelmingly preferable to flax oil, as many individuals with;

Learning disabilities and other mental, emotional, and cognitive disorders are known to lack the delta-6 desaturase enzyme necessary to create EPA and DHA from the parent form of omega-3 in vegetable sources, ALA. A mere 3–5 percent or less of the available ALA (in flax oil, walnuts, and similar sources) ever makes it to becoming EPA. Even less becomes the brain’s vitally needed DHA (Enig 2001).

It is also known that trans fats in the body interfere with the prostaglandin metabolic pathway, as do magnesium deficiencies and excess amounts of omega-6-fatty acids (e.g., corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil), which compete for delta-6-desaturase enzymes biochemically.

The overconsumption of vegetable oils such as soy and canola, which are nearly always partially hydrogenated; safflower, sunflower, and corn oils (omega-6 fatty acids); cottonseed oil, which is extremely high in proinflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and not even a food-source oil; margarine and vegetable shortenings, which contain hydrogenated trans fats; and even excess olive oil (omega-9 fatty acids) can interfere with the body’s use of omega-3 fatty acids.

These vegetable oils can exacerbate insulin resistance, leading to obesity, atherosclerosis, and other conditions, and when overly processed or rancid can cause mutagenic changes, leading to numerous cancers.

Except for olive oil, most vegetable oils are best avoided entirely.

Olive oil is okay for salads, over steamed vegetables, and as an accent to various dishes, though I don’t advise overusing it or cooking with it as it can easily become rancid when exposed to higher heat.

Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats should never be used at all.

Don’t be fooled by claims of reduced trans fats in fast foods or processed food items or by packaging that claims it contains zero trans-fat, then lists soybean oil, regular, nonorganic canola oil, or any other partially hydrogenated ingredient.

Labeling laws currently allow a certain amount of trans fat per serving before it has to be disclosed.

The food industry takes advantage of labeling loopholes everywhere it can.

The more one can simply avoid processed or packaged products, the better.

The only safe amount of trans fat is zero.

Naturally occurring saturated fat and cholesterol do not compete with omega-3 fatty acids and are mutually beneficial physiologically.

In addition, saturated fat and cholesterol, unjustly vilified, provide both cell membrane integrity and resistance to oxidation and makeup at least 50 percent of cell membranes.

Fully half of the fat in the human brain is saturated.

Naturally occurring saturated fat also;

  • assists in the absorption of vital nutrients;
  • plays a vital role in bone modeling;
  • lowers the levels of lipoprotein(a), which is a marker for heart disease;
  • protects the liver from alcohol ingestion;
  • enhances the immune system,
  • is needed for the proper use of essential fatty acids;
  • used for energy production,
  • normal hormonal production,
  • and normal cellular metabolism.

Shorter-chain saturated fatty acids (three to fourteen carbons in length) have potent antimicrobial and antiviral properties as well (Enig 2001).


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