Did you know that a generous portion of our brain tissue is comprised of fats and lipids? The role fats can play in the treatment and/or management of various brain health concerns (ex. brain injuries, cognitive decline, brain fog and mental health issues) are often underestimated. Having the right dose and types of fats in the diet can not only support proper brain tissue composition but can also be a source of energy for our energy-hungry noggins. So what fats are best for your brain?
Phosphatidylcholine is a major component of neuronal cell membranes in your brain, so it makes sense that not having enough of this important fatty acid, or the precursors to generating it in the body, can cause some problems. Phosphatidylcholine can also support the creation of neurotransmitters in the brain and has been shown to aid in various conditions such as cognitive decline, memory retention and stroke recovery. An excellent dietary source of phosphatidylcholine is egg yolks, sunny-side up! However, to reach therapeutic doses of this fatty acid, it’s best to supplement with injections or concentrated oral products.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Many of us are aware of the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Like phosphatidylcholine, certain omega-3 fatty acids also comprise cell membranes of brain tissue. There are a number of various studies available supporting the use of omega-3 fatty acids for conditions such as anxiety, depression, neurological inflammation and memory loss, to name a few. Dietary-wise, fatty fish is the best source of omega-3’s in the diet but once again, supplementation with a high-quality fish oil is the best way to reach therapeutic doses of the active ingredients of an omega-3, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Oil
MCT oil is primarily derived from coconut oil and has been receiving a lot of hype over the past few years for a multitude of different purposes. MCTs are relatively easy for our bodies to absorb and are a major contender when someone is trying to shift their body’s metabolism into ketosis. When the body’s metabolism is shifted into ketosis, it encourages the brain to utilize ketones as an energy source, as opposed to glucose. Multiple studies point towards the beneficial effects on the brain of nutritional ketosis, including management of epileptic episodes, slowing of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease and recovery from traumatic brain injuries.
Using fats smartly and wisely can go a long way in supporting the brain - from reducing seizures to slowing cognitive decline to providing therapeutic support for mental health conditions. And as always, when considering using any of the products mentioned above, it’s best to have a qualified health care practitioner help you determine what and how much you should be using before adding it into a treatment plan.