Avocados contain rich amounts of unsaturated fatty acids, that are essential for neurotransmitters to function at an optimal level. They also has powerful antioxidants like lutein, folate and vitamins C and E, that prevent oxidative stress of brain cells. Magnesium improves synaptic plasticity and improves memory and learning.
Over 60% of the brain is composed of fatty acids. The protective layers of nerve cells in the brain are built of double layer fatty acid molecules. Nerve cells are a vital part of the nervous system and are responsible for the transfer of nutrients to cells. This transfer takes place through a nerve cell membrane that is made up of fatty acids and derives fat from dietary sources. Maintaining the permeability of this membrane is vital for oxygen and vital nutrients to reach cells, lack of which will reduce chance of cell survival, cause oxidation and gradually reduce brain function.
Avocado and Brain Function
One-half an avocado (68 g) provides a nutrient and phytochemical dense food consisting of the following elements that make it an ideal super food for the brain1:
- magnesium (19.5 mg)
- vitamin E (1.3 mg)
- vitamin C (6.0 mg)
- folate (60 mg)
- lutein/zeaxanthin (185 μg)
- high amounts of essential monounsaturated fatty acids (6.7 g)
Unsaturated Fatty Acids
Saturated fats are tight chained and tend to reduce permeability when they deposit on the nerve cell membrane. On the other hand, unsaturated fats contain loose chains which help maintain permeability and allow oxygen and other vital nutrients to pass through to the cell. Nerve cell membranes also contain neurotransmitters, which are in charge of message relaying. These neurotransmitters also require a permeable membrane to transfer messages and a tightly packed membrane will affect their ability to communicate or survive. Both these aspects collectively reduce cognitive function.2
Magnesium deficiency has been associated with low mood, hyperactive behavior, and insomnia. Magnesium is anti-inflammatory and improves synaptic plasticity, which plays an important role in memory and learning functions.3
Lutein, a carotenoid, reduces oxidation of DHA (an essential polyunsaturated acid) thereby increasing its resistance and ability to maintain an efficient nerve cell membrane. It has also proven to improve visual function.4
Folate, Vitamin C and Vitamin E
Folate and Vitamins C and E are powerful antioxidants and can help reduce cell oxidation. Several studies have linked folate deficiency to neurological deterioration and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.5 Antioxidants reduce the risks of cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and protect the brain from certain neurotoxins.6
Avocados have the right mix of nutrients that your brain requires. Daily consumption of half an avocado can help counter natural depletion of brain function that occurs with age or poor lifestyle and diet choices.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Dreher, Mark L., and Adrienne J. Davenport. “Hass avocado composition and potential health effects.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 53.7 (2013): 738-750.|
|2.||↑||Diet and HD, Huntington’s Outreach Project For Education|
|3.||↑||Slutsky, Inna, et al. “Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium.” Neuron65.2 (2010): 165-177.|
|4.||↑||Johnson, Elizabeth J. “Role of lutein and zeaxanthin in visual and cognitive function throughout the lifespan.” Nutrition reviews 72.9 (2014): 605-612.|
|5.||↑||Wang, Hui-Xin, et al. “Vitamin B12 and folate in relation to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.” Neurology 56.9 (2001): 1188-1194.|
|6.||↑||Isaac, Mokhtar Gad El Kareem Nasr, Rebecca Quinn, and Naji Tabet. “Vitamin E for Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment.” The Cochrane Library (2008).|