Written By: Kelley Herring, Healing Gourmet
In my last article, I told you about the recent discovery of the connection between gluten consumption and cognitive decline.
Today, I’m going to share a super-nutrient that is absolutely critical to brain health, memory, mood and cognition… yet it has been maligned by “modern” medicine for decades.
Your Brain on Cholesterol
The brain is an amazing organ with vast capabilities. It processes and remembers information and guides reasoning and logic… not to mention the millions of transmission signals it must send just to keep your body running.
And get this: Over half your brain is made of fat and cholesterol.
In fact, while your brain comprises roughly two percent of your body’s total mass, it contains more than 25% of your body’s cholesterol.
And for good reason…
Cholesterol plays an essential role in ensuring the brain can function and communicate properly. Cholesterol is also what helps to keep cell membranes permeable, allowing nutrients to get in and waste to get out. Cholesterol also makes up the myelin sheath – an encasing that surrounds neurons – allowing them transmit and receive signals.
What’s more, the brain’s ability to make new connections (i.e. – Learn new things and gain knowledge) is dependent on cholesterol. Acting as a binding agent, cholesterol connects cell membranes together so that signals can easily traverse the gap between neurons, transmitting new information swiftly and effectively.
Cholesterol is also a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the brain against the onslaught of free radical attacks it receives every day.
It’s no wonder that a cholesterol deficiency has been linked to depression, brain degeneration and disease!
Low Cholesterol: The Secret Thief of Memory
In fact, cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) have long been known to have a negative impact on the brain and memory.
In his 2006 book, Lipitor, Thief of Memory, Dr. Duane Graveline, M.D. chronicled his and others’ experiences with statin-related memory-loss, and gathered evidence for the case against cholesterol-lowering drugs. But it wasn’t until 2012 that the FDA released a statement that cholesterol-lowering drugs pose a risk to cognition and memory.
So how does low cholesterol cause our memory to fail?
Neurotransmitters are the chemical substances within the brain that facilitate memory and learning. And when the brain is deprived of cholesterol fewer neurotransmitters are produced and released. This reduces our apability to learn and remember.
According to a Science Daily interview with Dr. Yeon-Kyun Shin, professor of Biophysics at Iowa State University, eating cholesterol-rich foods does just the opposite:
“Our study shows there is a direct link between cholesterol and neurotransmitter release… Cholesterol changes the shape of the proteins to stimulate thinking and memory.”
Brain Foods: A Lesson from Our Ancestors
Cholesterol-rich foods, like eggs, grass-fed meats, wild fish and organ meats have been enjoyed by our ancestors for millions of years. These are the true “brain foods” that fuel our bodies, protect against disease and keep our mind sharp.
To provide your brain with the super-nutrient it craves, you should enjoy these cholesterol-rich foods:
And stay tuned… in my upcoming articles, I’ll tell you more about the foods you should be eating to protect your brain, as well as those to avoid.
Kelley Herring is the creator of a best-selling low-glycemic, gluten-free and Paleo baking program, Guilt-Free Desserts. She is also the co-founder of Wellness Bakeries, which has just released their newest product – Better Bread – a 100% Paleo bread mix you can whip up in 5 minutes flat.
• National Science Foundation. How fast do nerves send signals to and from the brain?
• D. Jacobs, et al. Report of the Conference on Low Blood Cholesterol: Mortality Associations. Circulation 86, no. 3 (Sept. 1992): 1046-60
• Graveline, D. Lipitor, Thief of Memory: Statin Drugs and the Misguided War on Cholesterol. 2006
• Iowa State University “Cholesterol-reducing Drugs May Lessen Brain Function, Says Researcher”, Science Daily (Feb 26, 2009)