The brain, using a computer analogy, is our processor. It plays a huge role in determining how we think, how well we think, and how well our bodies function. Without the brain, we are nothing. So, it is important that we take good care of it and the essential fatty acids are one of the types of nutrients that we must get to ensure optimal brain function.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) and the Body
It’s a well-known fact that the human body cannot synthesize EFAs on its own, and therefore, it has to be ingested. This is done via eating foods containing EFAs or taking supplements. Fish, shellfish and other meaty seafood have a lot of EFA goodness to offer. Parts of the brain are made up of EFAs and they can have impeded development or increased degradation without them.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs and Brain Development
One of the best ways to get Omega EFAs is through the consumption of fish and shellfish. Seafood is packed with them and while there is some concern over mercury contamination, the benefits far outweigh potential harm. It is assumed that it is absolutely safe for humans to eat seafood at least three times per week and it should be done.
One paper, published in 2000, even suggested that the essential fatty acids found in fish are so important to infant brain development that pregnant women should be encouraged to eat fish in the third trimester so that the infant gets the needed amounts. Another paper, published in 2005, indicated that infants born of mothers who ingested enough EFAs during pregnancy had "higher mental processing scores, psychomotor development, hand-eye coordination and stereo acuity at 4 years of age." The same paper also stated that kids who ingested enough EFAs between infancy and the age of 5 (a.k.a. the "formative years") may have a defense against forming ADHD while enjoying increased success in learning and academics.
Good for Kids, but What about Adults?
Adults can benefit greatly from foods containing EFAs. Just because adult brains are no longer in a critical stage of development, it doesn’t mean that it’s not important to maintain the brain and feed it. Not eating EFAs as an adult may cause faster brain degradation or an increase in those days we feel like we can’t focus very well. It’s been shown that eating seafood on those days may help repair focus issues. As far as the brain degrading more quickly, there is some evidence that ensuring EFA intake can help stave off and possibly treat dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other brain-affected diseases.
Because EFAs help increase brain function in terms of neurotransmission (synaptic function) and prostaglandin (fatty acids that can act like important hormones) development, they are very important in any diet and it looks like they may be critical in future treatments of brain diseases under development. Because the best dietary sources of EFAs are fish like salmon, it is good to know which cooking techniques maximize the benefits.
The more a fish is cooked and the higher the heat, the more fish benefits degrade. Eating fish raw, such as sushi or sashimi, ensures that the highest possible amounts of EFAs are ingested. However, this isn’t always ideal for people. The next best way to cook it is with lemon or lime juice, as in a ceviche. That, too, is not preferable for many people. Steaming and oven cooking are the best ways for most to cook it. Avoid frying or deep frying as these methods destroy the EFAs enough that it’s close to not ingesting them at all. If eating seafood isn’t preferable, then consider taking supplements in order to ensure the body gets enough of them.Last Updated: Thursday, August 23, 2012