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Brain Food – Dr. William Davis


There are two nutrients that stand out for maintaining and restoring brain health and preventing cognitive decline: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and phosphatidylserine (PS).

Both DHA and PS are found in large quantities in the human brain, as well as the brains of other creatures. If modern humans had not become so squeamish about consuming animal brains, as well as heart, intestines, stomach, liver and other organ meats, our diets would be rich in both DHA and PS. Because almost nobody today includes brain or other organs on the menu, the modern diet is woefully deficient in both nutrients. Both play a major role in human brain physiology and health—their absence or lack means that the modern diet is a brain health disaster waiting to happen. Couple this with insulin resistance and irreversible protein glycation that are now modern plagues and cognitive impairment should come as no surprise. (Recall that many call Alzheimer’s dementia “type 3 diabetes,” meaning the brain is poorly responsive to insulin and subjected to high blood glucose levels.) Even if you wanted to add brain back to the menu, modern agricultural practices have introduced conditions such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy that makes consuming (bovine) brain potentially hazardous.

Most of you are already familiar with DHA, as we supplement it by adding fish oil to our lifestyle. (EPA is also important for a number of other areas of health, but DHA stands out for brain health.) While the clinical trial evidence has been mixed, the bulk of evidence suggests modest slowing of cognitive decline with DHA supplementation in its earliest phases. We also know that mothers who obtain DHA and EPA during pregnancy (especially the third trimester) and lactation have children with less behavioral and learning impairments, and have higher intelligence quotients (IQs) when they are older.

To get an idea what foods are a source of PS, take a look at the phosphatidylserine content of various foods:


From Souci 2008


The evidence in adding back PS to our diets suggests that:

  • Learning and behavior are improved in children with various learning/developmental impairments such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), situations in which inattentiveness and impulsivity are reduced by PS
  • People with early cognitive impairment experience improvements in memory and slowed cognitive decline with PS supplementation
  • Emerging evidence suggests that, by improving the functioning of HDL particles, PS may reduce risk for cardiovascular disease

PS therefore helps maintain human cognitive function, short-term memory, the consolidation of long-term memory, the ability to retrieve memories, the ability to learn, the ability to concentrate, the ability to reason and solve problems, and the ability to communicate.

The body also synthesizes PS from compounds such as phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine that are likewise most abundant in brain, organs, and other animal products, though modest quantities are obtained via consumption of plant matter, also.

Once again, we are back to the argument that, without consumption of animal products, we become deficient in a number of nutrients necessary for health. Besides DHA, EPA, and PS, there’s also collagen, hyaluronic acid, zinc, vitamin B12 and others. As with the modern diet that is collagen- and hyaluronic acid-poor because we don’t consume intestines, stomach, heart, skin, etc., so we are phosphatidylserine-deficient also for similar reasons. Should we therefore add PS to our list of missing nutrients if we fail to consume organs and plentiful fish?


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