How we live our lives has a profound impact on our brain health. What we eat and drink, how well we sleep, how we socialize with others, and how we handle stress all influence the quality of our brain health. Among these considerations, maintaining the right balance of essential fatty acids is critical.
Cell Membranes and Brain Health
Our body and brain are made up of cells. A vital part of these cells are organelles, many of which are enclosed by membranes. These membranes consist of double lipid layers that contain chains of fatty acids and proteins. Sixty percent of brain matter is made up of fatty acids in the form of membranes.
A brain cell’s membranes are crucial for brain health. They work to keep toxins out of the cells. The membranes contain receptors and channels that allow ions, nutrients, wastes, and metabolic products to pass between the cell’s organelles, and between cells and their outside environment. They also protect metabolic processes conducted within organelles, including the uptake and conversion of nutrients, synthesis of new molecules, production of energy, and regulation of metabolic sequences.
Membrane Fatty Acids
In the brain, the membrane fatty acids are primarily arachidonic acid (AA), known as an omega-6 fatty acid, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), also known as an omega-3 fatty acid. Both are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs). These polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) – omega-6 and omega-3 – cannot be naturally synthesized by the body. Therefore, it is essential that we incorporate them into our diet.
Getting the Ratio of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) Right
Beyond their crucial role in building our brain structure, essential fatty acids are involved in the synthesis and functions of our brain neurotransmitters and supporting the molecules of our immune system. The correct ratio of Omega 6 and Omega 3 is critical for the optimal function of the membrane. Diets with too much omega-6 or omega-3 can be as harmful to brain cell functions as are diets that deprive brain cells of these essential fatty acids.
At the Yang Institute, helping people burn bad fat, build good fatty acids and balance essential fatty acids is an integral part of our integrative medicine practice, especially for brain health.