We have a fatty brain. Fat plays many vital roles in brain function. In the past, very little attention was given to the influence of dietary fats upon our mental state. Recent multiple lines of evidence indicate that it might be possible to manipulate our dietary fat intact in order to treat or prevent disorders of cognitive function.
A study to be published in the Journal of Neurochemistry by a group from Universite Laval in Quebec compared the effects of monounsaturated fats from olive and canola oils with polyunsaturated fats from meat, fish and vegetable oils upon a variety of biochemical changes and electrical properties of cells within a brain region that is critical for learning and memory.
The diets contained five percent total fat; the remainder of the diet contained a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fibers, vitamins and minerals. The diets only differed by the type of fat present, i.e. monounsaturated vs polyunsaturated.
After eleven months, the diets significantly changed the profile of fats within the brain. Essentially, a diet high in monounsaturated fats altered the basic chemistry and electrical properties of the brain in such a way that learning was enhanced, age-related cognitive decline slowed and the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease was reduced. A diet high in monounsaturated fats is often referred to as the Mediterranean diet.