The brain is the fattest organ in our body along with the fat under the skin. However, brain fat is not used primarily as an energy source for the body, but as part of the structure of the brain. That’s why our brains don’t lose weight and their size will always be the same, whether we lost a few pounds or several tens of pounds.
The lack of essential fats in the brain alone is enough to reduce its vital functions even in the medium term. Some of these fats needed by the brain and nerves should also be included as part of our daily diet. So are you aware enough about what fats your brain needs to stay healthy and healthy?
Humanity demands a higher quality diet and more fat
The human brain is about 10 to 20 times larger than the brain of the world’s largest mammals, such as the whale or elephant. Therefore, our brains consume up to about 600 kilocalories per day, which is 30 percent of the average daily caloric intake of a normal adult. It is in us humans that the largest and most advanced gray matter in the entire animal kingdom is found in our central nervous system, and its significant growth has taken place even in record time.
Alongside this brain evolution, man developed abstract thinking, imagination, reflection, introspection, and the “imaginary world”. How can we explain this spectacular evolution that made our intellect what we are today?
This evolution has highlighted two important aspects in particular: cooking food and a richer and more varied diet.
In addition to the time spent digesting, cooking also reduces the energy used for continuous chewing to allow the body to digest large amounts of fiber, collagen and cartilage. Reducing the time spent chewing also helped improve memory and cognitive abilities. In addition, the length of the intestine shrank and a more diverse intestinal bacterial flora began to develop there.
On the other hand, the inclusion of animal proteins (both from land and water) in the diet accelerated the growth and development of brain size and abilities. According to German neuroscientist Karl Zilles, Europeans have increased brain size by about 70 grams over the century thanks to a better diet. Quality food and eating together also offer us other endless benefits such as social interaction and sensory enjoyment. Undoubtedly, a well-fed intestine also helps to praise the intellect.
And that’s not all. Some sociologists and anthropologists have also argued that the consumption of coastal products such as fish, shellfish, molluscs, algae, and even turtles or crocodiles has increased our intelligence and social skills, creating more complex societies. In fact, the first great civilizations in our history have settled right near rivers or seas.
One of the reasons for the development of intelligence is the inclusion in the diet of the most important fats for brain function: unsaturated fats, which are abundant in fish oils, for example.
Without fat, the brain would be dumb
The brain acts as a major center of activity. The brain manages a huge database, processes it, and in many cases produces answers and reactions to a wide variety of possibilities.
Brain fat is one of the most important parameters that allows neurons to communicate with each other; and in the most incredible way. It is estimated that the connection between the neurons forms an impressive data transmission network that is about 1,000 kilometers long. Communication between neurons arises from electrochemical impulses.
In order for this “electronic conversation” to take place at the highest possible speed, a sufficient amount of fat covering the nerve cells – or what we also know as nerves in colloquial speech – is extremely important. This layer of fat also prevents the brain from shrinking. Grease promotes more efficient heat absorption and insulates electricity well, but just about any grease doesn’t do the same thing. So what kind of fats does the brain need the most?
The brain loves cholesterol and Omega-3 fatty acids
Brain fats are uniquely selected for its various cells. About 25 percent of these fats are cholesterol, which is an essential part of many different brain functions, including memory and learning. Cholesterol is produced by the brain cells themselves, so there is usually no shortage of that fatty acid.
However, the same does not happen with other favorite fats in the brain, without which they would not function properly: polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are also known as Omega fatty acids, and without a doubt the best known of them are Omega-3 compounds. The brain is a very keen hunter of Omega-3 fatty acids, and your stores need to be replenished at a steady pace.
With the exception of some populations that favor traditional vegan food, people are generally unable to produce all of the Omega-3s needed by the brain on their own. Therefore, when these important fatty acids are not found in the diet enough, their deficiency in the medium term can lead to the development of some neurodegenerative diseases, cognitive disorders and depressive states.
Which products contain the most Omega-3 fatty acids?
More than 50 percent of the essential Omega-3 fatty acids come from fish oils (especially fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel) and, to a lesser extent, seafood and seaweed. If we completely excluded these food sources from our diet and replaced them with nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and legumes alone, we would be able to cover only a very small portion of the total amount of Omega-3 fatty acids needed by the brain.
This aspect is especially important in the first years of human life, when our brains are still forming and growing. In this regard, a recent study has shown that low intake of Omega-3 fatty acids increases the risk of children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
As we grow, Omega-3s are still essential fatty acids for brain function and maintenance. It has been estimated that Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies can only be detected in the brains of young adults until after at least several months, whereas as the human brain ages, deficiencies in these fatty acids develop much faster. Lack of omega-3 fatty acids increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and other disorders such as insomnia, attention deficit, and mental fatigue, among others.
It is estimated that a normal adult needs an average of about 200 to 300 milligrams of different types of fatty acids daily. Some of the foods that contain these vital fatty acids for the brain are the following:
- Cod liver oil (3,500 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acids per 100 grams of cod liver oil).
- Herring and sardines (1,500 to 1,800 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acids per 100 grams of herring or sardines).
- Salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout and sturgeon (500-800 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acids per 100 grams of fish).
- Fish roe (red and black caviar) (380-400 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acids per 100 grams of roe).
- Hake, dolphin, sea bass, great bustard, stingray, carp, mullus, turbot, cod, sole and other white fish (150-200 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acids per 100 grams of fish).
- Algae (nori, hijiki, wakame, kombu, red seaweed, arame), (20-50 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acids per 100 grams of algae).
What fats do the brains of people who do not eat seafood need?
Most of us do not find a mechanism in our metabolism that can produce certain types of Omega-3 fatty acids from herbal products. Only a few populations that have followed a vegan vegetarian diet for several generations have managed to adapt their metabolism to the lack of consumption of fish oil and compensate for the need for these important fatty acids with vegetables, grains, and seeds, for example.
Therefore, for example, the consumption of chia or flax seeds, nuts, olives, grains, or vegetable oils alone is not enough to satisfy the brain’s needs for different types of Omega-3 fatty acids for intellectual and emotional functioning.