How The Mediterranean Diet Helps Your Brain

High cholesterol and saturated fat are definitely bad for you. They build up plaque in the arteries and eventually in the brain. For this reason, low-carb diets and low-fat labels on food in supermarkets are in such high demand.

A study published in Neurology, written by a Dutch research team, states that the development of a variety of neurodegenerative and dementia disorders are significantly related to cardiovascular disease, caused by high levels of cholesterol and saturated fats. By eating a diet high in omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids, found in pink fish like salmon and tuna, can have the opposite effect.

Tracking the diets of 1613 middle-aged men and women for 5 years, the Dutch study found that those whose diets were high in fish showed a lesser number of people with cognitive and memory problems, while those who chose a diet in elevated cholesterol levels had memory problems and decreased flexibility and reflexes.

By adopting a “Mediterranean diet” rich in unsaturated fatty acids and Omega-3 fatty acids, you enrich your cardiovascular system and could decrease the rate of memory loss. Cardiologists and nutritionists have been advocating a similar diet for years.

An independent study of 278 elderly individuals between the ages of 65-84, living in a rural Italian city of Casamassima revealed a strong correlation between high monounsaturated fat intake and improved cognitive performance. These people received 33% of their total calories in the form of fat, and 17.6% of their total calories came from monounsaturated fatty acids. Of the monounsaturated fatty acids, 85% of this came from olive oil. This means that 15% of their total calories came from olive oil, and these people showed a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and memory loss.

Many other research studies have demonstrated that certain fatty acids, especially the oils found in cold-water fish, can be used to improve brain function, reduce memory loss, and retard cognitive decline.

Our body needs fat in our diet, for both the body and the mind, in reasonable quantities, in order to function at optimum levels. These dietary fats are often referred to as “fatty acids.” This simply means that a long, fat molecule has an acidic group attached to one end. Fats come in a variety of types, including saturated (meaning that there are no double bonds between carbon atoms in the chain), monounsaturated (one double bond), and polyunsaturated (two or more double bonds). If this seems overly technical, just remember that saturated fats, such as butter, tend to be solids at room temperature, and unsaturated ones are usually oils.

Not all fats are bad. Monounsaturated fats (like olive, canola, and peanut oils) are generally considered to be healthier than polyunsaturated fats (like sunflower, safflower, and corn oils). There are some polyunsaturated fats, the omega-3 fatty acids for instance, have many beneficial effects, particularly with respect to cognition and memory; they are also considered to be heart-healthy.

Laboratory rats in a study were given a diet deficient in polyunsaturated fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil). It was found their learning and memory skills are significantly impaired. When they were transferred to a diet supplemented with DHA, they showed dramatic improvement in memory and learning.

DHA is very important in the formation of the cellular membranes of nerve cells. When DHA is in short supply, the structural and function of the nerve cell is compromised. So it is not surprising that a number of studies demonstrate that DHA is required for normal brain development in humans. In studies with infants, it has been found that newborns supplemented with DHA exhibit improved brain development, which allows them to process information more rapidly.

Most of the studies so far with DHA have been conducted on lab animals and focused on older animals. When older rats are given diets supplements with DHA their memory improves significantly. As an example: After only four days of supplementation, they need only half as much time to find their way out of a maze as control rats that were fed palm oil with no DHA. Based on this and other information, many researchers believe that an ample intake of omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA, may be especially beneficial in protecting against cognitive impairment in humans.

 

 

About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life.

 

 

Sources:

Life Enhancement: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Improve Cognitive Functions: http://www.life-enhancement.com/article_template.asp?ID=578

Memoryzine.com: Eating fatty fish clears mental fog – http://memoryzine.com/2010/07/22/eating-fatty-fish-clears-mental-fog

Science Daily: Scientists Learn How Food Effects The Brain – Especially Omega-3 – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080709161922.htm

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