I know I’ve been talking about fat a lot lately. But it’s a topic that bears repeating. Because even in this supposedly “enlightened” age we’re living in, so many people are still needlessly afraid of fat and have deeply rooted—yet deeply wrong—convictions about how much of it they should eat. Some truly healthy foods are still mistakenly labeled as “fattening.”
And far too many people still think all fat is inherently bad for you—despite all the proof showing the very opposite to be true.
In fact, one part of the body in particular suffers a devastating blow whenever someone eagerly rids their diet of as much fat as possible.
I’m talking about your brain.
Indeed, over 60 percent of the brain is made up of fats. That’s why it kills me to see parents put their kids on low-fat diets. The nervous system actively grows until about the age of 25. And without plenty of good dietary fats, it may not develop properly. In fact, I believe this may explain—at least in part—why there are so many behavioral and developmental problems in today’s youth. They were born to the generation of “low-fat” eaters.
But today I want to focus on how fats protect aging brains. And it all comes back to a topic I discuss in more detail in this month’s issue of my Logical Health Alternatives newsletter—cell membrane health. In the issue, I reveal a newly discovered—yet frighteningly common—cause of damage to cell membranes, and what it means for your health (this is definitely info you don’t want to miss, so if you’re not already a subscriber, visit my website to sign up today).
But today, let’s focus more directly on the relationship between fats, cell membranes, and your brain.
First, a little review: The membrane that surrounds every nerve cell is where many of the brain’s essential functions take place. It determines how well you think, learn, and remember, as well as how resistant your brain is to diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and epilepsy. Both layers of the membrane are made from fatty acids. The fatty acids you eat (and take in supplements) determine the types of fatty acids that end up in your cell membranes.
And having the right ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is the key to protecting your brain cell membranes.
Over time, poor diet and stress increase the membrane’s cholesterol while decreasing its fatty acid content. This reduces membrane fluidity and results in depression, memory loss, learning difficulties, poor eyesight, poor temperature regulation, and a lower threshold for pain.
Decades of investigation into the role of fatty acids in brain health have offered impressive evidence that eating the right fats does just the opposite, resulting in enhanced lifelong learning ability, reduced incidence of memory loss (and Alzheimer’s), and even greater protection from neurotoxins.
The two most prominent types of brain cell fatty acids are DHA (an omega-3), which the body makes from alpha linolenic acid (ALA), and arachidonic acid, or AA (an omega-6), which the body makes from linoleic acid (LA).
In fact, scientists have found that LA and ALA can improve brain function and quality of life. But only in the right ratio.
And that ratio is 4:1.
In fact, a number of studies have proven that fatty acid formulas with this ratio have been shown to do everything from lowering cholesterol levels, to aiding brain function and quality of life in Alzheimer’s patients, to enhancing learning and memory capabilities, to promoting overall health in babies.
This ratio is especially important to know because it’s usually out of whack. As I’ve written about before, omega-6s are prevalent in a lot of processed, packaged foods. So the typical American diet generally contains plenty of them. Too many, in fact. It’s omega-3s people often don’t get enough of.
But a quality fish oil supplement is really all you need to ensure you’re getting the right ratio of fats.
Although, as it turns out, there may be another ideally balanced source of fatty acids—hempseed oil.In fact, it’s one of the very few products that has the “magic” 4:1 ratio I mentioned above.
I’m definitely going to be studying the research on hempseed oil more, and will keep you posted on what I find out. Until then, if you want to try it out, it certainly won’t hurt you—and may even give your brain an added boost. (But don’t toss your macadamia nut oil! It’s still the healthiest source of monounsaturated fat overall.)
And make sure you keep taking your fish oil too. As always, I recommend 3,000 mg per day of DHA and EPA.
“Finding the right omega-3 and omega-6 ratio is key to protecting cell membranes,” FoodNavigator.com, 12/22/14