Eating Brain-Healthy Fats

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by Nils Osmar. April 3, 2022

Some fats have been shown to be good, or even essential, for the brain. These brain-healthy fats include DHA and EPA from fish or krill oil and MCT OIL from coconuts or palm.

Sixty percent of the brain is made up of fat.  The fatty acid DHA (found in fish, krill and some other seafood) comprises forty percent of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the brain. Another fatty acid from fish, EPA, has also been shown to prevent memory loss.

According to The Journal of Nutrition study DHA May Prevent Age-Related Dementia:

Our recent literature review found 9 epidemiological studies associating increased fish consumption with reduced risk for dementia, including AD. Furthermore, 8 out of 10 studies found that higher blood (n-3) fatty acids were associated with reduced cognitive decline …

One report found that high fish consumption but not dietary (n-3) fatty acid intake appeared protective in the Chicago Health and Aging Project. Another study showed no risk reduction with increased RBC DHA but reduced dementia (4.3–5.1%) in those with high RBC PUFA and high whole blood mercury, a good correlate of higher long-term fish intake …

Good sources of EPA and DHA

To get EPA and DHA, you can take fish oil or krill oil or eat fatty fish. Fish low on the food chain such as sardines are an ideal source because they are much lower in contaminants such as mercury and PCBs. Pacific salmon is also high in fatty acids and low in contaminants because its migratory path takes it far from areas of pollution. Pacific sockeye (red) salmon is guaranteed to be wild because it can’t be farmed.

There’s some interesting anecdotal evidence that MCT OIL (from coconuts) may prevent or reverse symptoms of dementia. This article relates one doctor’s experience using MCT with her husband, who was suffering from severe Alzheimer’s: Dr. Mary Newport, Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was A Cure?

Of course, people should also avoid certain fats, such as trans fats. And there’s evidence that some oils which have been promoted as healthy may actually be harmful.

Personal note:

I’ve found it easy to add EPA, DHA and MCT oils to my diet. I eat sardines three or four times a week and take fish oil and krill oil as a supplement. I take MCT oil as a supplement, and also cook with it. If I’m feeling tired after a day of teaching, but have more classes coming up, taking some MCT can make me feel mentally alert again.

Photo credit: Image by RitaE from Pixabay

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