If Someone Calls You a Fathead, That Could Be a Good Thing
Throughout his career, Jerre has made a study of the human brain and learning. In fact, he has a PhD. in Learning Theory, and as far back as his teaching career goes, Jerre’s been active in ensuring that students get proper nutrition for their brains. Meeting Gloria brought Jerre’s knowledge and understanding into sharper focus, and both continue to research this important topic.
Because school began for so many students this month, we’re focusing this blog on the following important considerations about learning and the brain:
- The human brain is comprised of about 60% fat, so it’s important that everyone get the right amounts of the right types of dietary fat to promote proper brain function. Yup, if someone calls you a fathead, that actually may be a good thing.
- Over the past 100 years, the amount of brain-healthy fats people consume has decreased by as much as 80% (Schmidt, Michael A. Brain Building Nutrition). Yes, consuming too much fat—especially the wrong kind of fat—can cause disease, but avoiding fats altogether is not the answer, either. It takes a balanced, informed approach (and the fat-free marketing hype of the food industry is no help when it comes to making sure the brain has sufficient amounts of the right types of fats to do its job).
- All fats are comprised of fatty acids. There are many groups of fatty acids, and all of these groups have sub-groups.
- You’ve likely heard about one group of important fatty acids: Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs for short). Since your body doesn’t make them, it’s essential to get EFAs from food or food supplements—which is why they’re called essential fatty acids.
- EFAs perform countless critical functions within the body and are especially important for proper brain function. In fact, our research shows that poor concentration (as well as depression, suicidal thoughts, and aggression) all have been linked to a shortage of EFAs.
- National food guidelines are woefully silent on the matter of EFAs, but we have a lot to say about them. We can’t include much in a short blog, but Chapters 6 and 7 of our book EAT to Save Your Life focus on fats and their vital role in human health—including brain health.
- You’ve probably also heard about Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are one of several groups of EFAs. They’re found mainly in oily, cold water fish but also in grass-fed meat, flaxseed, flaxseed oil, krill oil, walnuts, and Brazil nuts. It’s important to note that heat damages delicate EFAs, so nuts and seeds should be raw (never salted or roasted) and refrigerated (at the store and at home). Similarly, oils should be cold-pressed (not refined) and kept in the fridge.
- Because heavy metals settle on the ocean floor, and inland waterways tend to have problems with pollutants, we avoid shellfish as well as fish from rivers, lakes, streams, and coastal farms. Instead, we prefer to eat fish that inhabit the upper regions of deep, cold, ocean waters. Think: wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, and mackerel.
- DHA is one key member of the Omega-3 family of fatty acids, and it’s very concentrated in the brain (especially in the part that does complex thinking). DHA can improve a person’s mood, behavior, and ability to learn—perhaps not in all cases, but often enough to make DHA supplementation an important aspect of any nutritional regimen for students or for anyone interested in optimum brain function. After all, 97% of the Omega-3 fats in a child’s brain consist of DHA.
- Although studies vary on this issue, it’s our view that food supplements are your best source of Omega-3 fatty acids (including brain-healthy DHA) because EFAs are so easily damaged by modern methods of food harvesting, storing, shipping, and preparing. Our book EAT to Save Your Life provides ten important questions to ask before purchasing any supplement.
Of course, you should always speak to your healthcare provider before starting any supplementation regimen, but we highly recommend EFA supplementation for most people and DHA supplementation, in particular, for people interested in optimum brain function.
Here’s to being a fathead,
Gloria and Jerre