March 14-20 is Brain Awareness Week, which is a nationwide effort organized by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and the Society for Neuroscience to promote the public and personal benefits of brain research. This global campaign unites the efforts of organizations worldwide in a week-long celebration of the brain─one of our most vital organs, which is often taken for granted.

Did you know your brain is nearly 60% fat? The basic building blocks of brain cells─as well as the outer membranes─are comprised of omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as EPA and DHA from fish oil, as well as arachidonic acid (ARA)1 from fish, eggs, and dairy products.

Nerve signals must pass through this fat-rich cell membrane, and as daily learning and memory forge new connections between nerve cells, new membranes must be created to sheathe them. This calls for a continuous supply of omega-3 EFAs, the fats best suited for optimal brain function. These EFAs are also used as fuel for brain metabolism and help control the chronic inflammatory processes involved in degenerative brain disorders.

The brain is particularly rich in DHA, and the decline in structural and functional integrity of brain tissue is linked to reduced DHA in the membranes. This means that if we don’t get enough of these crucial fats, our brains can suffer in the form of cognitive impairment, as well as neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.2

Given that these debilitating health issues are still essentially without a cure, prevention─as always─is your best defense. Here’s a toast to your healthy brain, this week and all year long.

1 Chemico-biological interactions 163 (3): 207–17. doi:10.1016/j.cbi.2006.08.005. PMID 16982041
2 Int J Dev Neurosci. 2000 Jul-Aug;18(4-5):383-99