Last week I discussed the book “Grain Brain” by David Perlmutter, MD which argued “…to a large extent numerous neurological conditions often reflect the mistake of consuming too many carbs and not enough healthy fats”. Last week I concentrated on reducing carbs; this week I want to focus on the other half of the equation – increasing good fats. Perlmutter suggests that up to 75% of our diets should be fat, rather than the current average of 20%.
Our bodies, and particularly our brains, require fat for optimal health. Our brains are 60-70% fat, so if someone calls you a “fathead” they are right – but that’s a good thing because our brains couldn’t function without it. Saturated fats are an essential component of brain cells. Similarly cholesterol is essential for every cell of the body and particularly for the brain. The brain contains 25% of our body’s cholesterol, and it’s there for a reason. Cholesterol is essential for proper brain and nervous system function. It facilitates nerve cell communication and acts as an antioxidant to protect the brain. Vitamin D is essential for brain health and is synthesized in our skin from cholesterol.
So do we have to trade off increased risk of heart disease and early death to enjoy a healthy brain? Fortunately, not at all! The same dietary changes that reduce risk of dementia also lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and death. Recent research has found that elderly people with the lowest cholesterol levels are at the highest risk for Alzheimer’s and of death from all causes, while those with the highest cholesterol have a significantly lower risk for dementia.
Good fats include olive oil, butter, coconut oil, nuts, avocado, eggs and fatty fish like salmon. Bad fats to avoid are trans fats and hydrogenated (artificially saturated) fats – the fats found in most processed foods. Cooking oils that have been processed to prolong shelf life are also best avoided. Dr. Perlmutter also recommends an Omega 3 essential fatty acid supplement high in DHA.
Finally, Perlmutter also promotes physical exercise as beneficial for the brain. More on that topic next week.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.