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The Importance of a “fatty brain”

The miracle of Omega 3 oils

First up, a quick anatomy review: the brain is made up of 60-70% fat. Yes, you have and want a “fatty brain”. Brain health means improved physical and cognitive performance. What role does fat play in your brain and body’s performance? Why maintaining a fatty brain is important and what types of fats fuel your brain?

Brain membrane (the working surface of the brain) and the myelin sheath (communication neurons) comprise the majority of your cognitive brain function. This is your brain fat. More specifically, it’s essential fatty acids. These are the essential building material, i.e. bricks, of brain cells. The brain is rebuilt and repaired using these building blocks absorbed from the fat in our diets.

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, found in Omega 3 oils) is the most abundant fat in the brain. Deficiency in DHA means a loss in the structural and functional integrity of the brain. The brain knows the difference between good and bad fats. Too much bad fat, trans fats and excess saturated fats, leads to cognitive decline. Trans fats (brain blockers) need to be eliminated from a healthy diet. Some saturated fat is healthy, e.g. coconut oil.

Oxidative damage from stress, alcohol, excess sugar, vitamin or mineral deficiency, causes a decline in DHA concentrations, potentially leading to cognitive impairment or disease (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cognitive dementia, depression, heart disease, etc.). Excessive or chronic exercise (yes triathlon training may fall under this category!) leads to systemic inflammation and cell death that can negatively impact brain function.

Yet, regular exercise is crucial to maintaining a healthy brain and can even block the brain’s absorption of bad fats. There is a large body of evidence that shows how exercise benefits brain power. You can improve the speed and sharpness of thought and actually increase the volume of brain tissue. Brain tissue breaks down and needs repair, much as muscle damage from exercise needs recovery to repair. An important building block of brain tissues are the Omega 3 oils found in avocados, olive oil and fish and fish oil supplements. A health brain functions to help decrease ratings of perceived exertion from exercise, thereby allowing harder efforts during racing and training. Increased brain power means improved performance. Omega 3 oils work to increase brain tissue repair and decrease inflammation to help maintain an intelligent, happy, fatty brain.

The following link tells the story of 2 severely brain damaged individuals who were given very high doses of Omega 3s (upwards of 20g of fish oil daily, intravenously). This is an unprecedented protocol in brain trauma medicine. According to treating physicians, the patients’ recovery was unexpectedly rapid, indicating the possible role of aggressive fish oil supplementation played in their recovery; rebuilding damaged brain tissue brick by brick. An amazing story!

Fish Oil Saved Our Son