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Vegetable Fat is Superior to Animal Fat
By Dr. Neil Nedley

Soya Beans and Soya bean oil             The superiority of breast-feeding is obviously important information for expectant parents. However, the proper type of fat also seems to be necessary for short-term learning in adults. Dr. Coscina and colleagues dem­onstrated this fact some 15 years ago.  They fed two groups of adult rats foods that had identical amounts of fat. How­ever, the fat came from different sources.

            After only three weeks, rats given a diet based on a moderate amount of vegetable fat (20 percent polyunsaturated soybean oil) exhibited improved learning skills com­pared to those fed a diet based on 20 per­cent saturated fat (lard). The authors saw this as solid evidence that "short-term variations in the quality of dietary fat can enhance mammalian learning."  Israeli re­searchers also found that animals on a diet adequate in such plant fats as alpha linolenic acid and linolenic acid can improve memory and help the brain tolerate pain better.

            Dr. Bernell Baldwin has offered one explanation for why the type of fat may make a difference. The saturated fats typi­cally found in animal products may make brain nerve communication more difficult. His hypothesis is that the brain's synapses are rendered more rigid by a diet rich in saturated fat, while unsaturated fats from vegetables, seeds, and nuts create more flexible membranes that promote greater communication efficiency? Another pos­sibility is that some of the unsaturated fats actually have beneficial effects that may be blocked by their saturated cousins. If this is true, unsaturated fats like the omega-3 fats may be especially important for adult learning as well.

            Fortunately for adults there are other sources of high quality fat besides breast milk. Many readers may immediately think “fish.” It is true that cold-water fish tend to be rich in omega-3 fats. However, fish have a number of undesirable charac­teristics from a health standpoint. In fact, in Proof Positive I devote an entire chap­ter to "The Truth About Fish." My rec­ommendation remains the same, namely, that we can obtain the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids from a plant fat called linolenic acid.

           Ingestion of polyunsaturated fat is not the only nutritional key to optimal brain function. Adequate vitamin and mineral intake also appears to be essential for hu­man brain performance. Some of the micronutrients that have a role in improving our brain's achievements include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, & B12, folic acid, the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, and iron. The growing list of such nutri­ents supports the adoption of a well-bal­anced diet rich in a broad array of these compounds.


From: Neil Nedley, MD  Depression, the Way Out, Nedley Publishing, Ardmore, OK, 2001