Brain food: Clever eating
Nature 531, S12–S13 (03 March 2016)
Consumption of animals helped hominins to grow bigger brains. But in a world rich with food, how necessary is meat?
omega-3 fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) help to keep neurons alive and to regulate inflammation.
omega-3 fatty acids, chiefly DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are crucial for human cognitive health.
“One size does not fit all around nutritional recommendations,” says Hosking. Put another way, the nutrients found in meat are important for health and cognition, but only up to a point. “Meat packs a lot of minerals and vitamins in just a small amount of food,” says Domínguez-Rodrigo. “Eating meat is like eating a power bar.”
So the key question becomes how much meat should a cognitive-health-conscious person eat. Too little can delay development and cognition. But too much, particularly if it is low quality and mass produced, is associated with other health concerns, such as heart disease and cancer, along with memory problems later in life.
A person’s life stage matters: pregnant women need more iron, as do babies and children. Genetics also play a part, but we don’t yet know all the particulars. All these caveats make for a murky takeaway.