‘Fat’ is almost officially listed as a dirty word in our collective vocabularies, but a certain kind of fat in certain parts of the body (namely the brain!) does wonders for your memory.
Consumption of fish has been long-held as a source of good memory, but the how of this link has remained unknown so far. Consuming fish is known to provide DHA (docosahexanoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid (yes, fat!). Until now, however, the link between DHA and memory, if any, also remained unknown.
DHA Found in the Brain
Scientists at the University of Alberta took two groups of mice, and supplemented one group’s diet with DHA while the other group had to go without it. It was found that brains of mice in the first group had a 30% increase in levels of DHA in the hippocampus- the memory-forming region of the brain. They then tested for ‘synaptic transmission’ in these groups of mice- which is how fast impulses travel from one neuron to the next. Again, they found a significant increase in transmission in the group of mice which was given a DHA-rich diet.
This means that DHA levels in the brain are very directly correlated to memory. So that’s how eating fish helps neurons become more responsive to stimuli and fire more easily, leading to better memory.
Where Do I Get My DHA?
Unfortunately for vegetarians, DHA is only found in animal sources of food, primarily fish. Plants have another omega-3 fatty acid called ALA, which can be converted to DPA but at an extremely slow rate. Eggs are a reasonable source too, and vegetarians are at a risk of consuming less than they need. Lacto-vegetarians, vegetarians and vegans have to turn to algal sources (like Spirulina), fortified food or food supplements to get their fill of DHA.
So yes, go on that fat-free diet for sure, but remember to keep the DHA in.