Brain food

Brain food

At the very core of our well-being, intelligence, memory… our brain is a tenacious labourer and a champion of rapid communication, one which has immense needs. It consumes between 20% and 30% of the body's glucose and oxygen while representing around 3% of its weight!

However, with stress, overwork and the years, in some people it may need more time to react, impacting on the memory and concentration. Unavoidable? No: cognitive functioning, especially the memory process, requires nutrients from the diet and any problems may simply be a sign of certain deficiencies.

The phospholipids and DHA, the building blocks of the nerve cells

Fat is vital to the brain!

Our brain is 50% to 60% made of fats: the highest concentration of fats after the adipose cells! Surprising considering that its main fuel is glucose! There's a simple reason: in the brain there is no support tissue but an impressive density of cells of specific forms, designed to receive, circulate and exchange messages.

Les membranes cellulairesAll the cells are defined by a membrane consisting of a dual lipidic layer nearly 50% composed of phospholipids, the main ones being phosphatidylserine and phosphatidylcholine. The chains of fatty acids of the cerebral phospholipids contain more DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), also called cervonic acid (from the omega-3 family), provided that it exists in sufficient quantity as it cannot be synthesised by the body.
It should be noted that the long arms of the neurone (or axones) are covered by membranes of special cells forming a discontinuous sheath - the myelin sheath which accelerates the transfer of the message - itself composed of 70% lipids.

The role of the phospholipids and DHA in the brain

  • The phospholipidsMembranes in good condition optimise the transportation of the information carriers, the neurotransmitters. Function will be degraded without sufficient DHA. Such an amount, it should be noted, varies according the diet.
  • They also have an impact on the synthesis and release of the neurotransmitters. So phosphatidylserine increases the release of dopamine and acetylcholine which are involved in the memory and learning processes. Phosphatidylcholine allows the production of acetylcholine and of components of the myelin sheath, enhancing the speed of information transmission1.
  • DHA for its part is as essential for the brain as calcium is for the bones! It is active in the formation of neurones and their survival, the speed of nerve message transmission, arterial flexibility, the transportation of glucose, resistance to stress and learning and memory2-3-4-5.

Phospholipids and DHA, critical membrane components, therefore play a vital nutritional role in proper cognitive function.

The role of vitamins

Vitamin B5 supports intellectual function and the synthesis of certain neurotransmitters.
Vitamin B6 plays a role in the functioning of the nervous system6 while vitamin E protects the cells against oxidative stress, notably the neurones7.

1. Küllenberg D et al. Health effects of dietary phospholipids. Lipids in health and disease.2012, 11 :3.
2. Cao D et al. Docosahexaenoic acid promotes hippocampal neuronal development and synaptic function. J Neurochem. 2009 Oct;111(2):510-21.
3. Lukiw WJ et al. A role for docosahexaenoic acid-derived neuroprotectin D1 in neural cell survival and Alzheimer's disease. J Clin Invest. 2005 Oct;115(10):2774-83.
4. Layé S. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, neuroinflammation and well being. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2010 Apr-Jun;82(4-6):295-303. 
5. Lavialle M.1, Layé S.2 . Acides gras poly-insaturés (omega 3, omega 6) et fonctionnement du système nerveux central (Polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega 3 and 6) and the functioning of the central nervous system) Innovations Agronomiques 10 (2010), 25-42.
6. Selhub J et al. B vitamins and the ageing brain. Nutr Rev. 2010 Dec;68 Suppl 2:S112-8. 
7. Lucile Capuron et al. Vitamin E status and quality of life in the elderly: influence of inflammatory processes. Br J Nutr. 2009 November; 102(10): 1390–1394.

To find out more

La nouvelle diététique du cerveau
La nouvelle diététique du cerveau

La nouvelle diététique du cerveau
Docteur Jean-Marie Bourre
Publisher Odile Jacob
March 2006

Un cerveau à 100%
Un cerveau à 100%

Un cerveau à 100%
Docteur Eric Braverman
Publisher Thierry Souccar
December 2007