What foods you eat will affect all functions of your body, from the large organs down to the cells. This includes your brain and neurons. The nervous system controls your brain, spinal cord, neurons and glial cells, which provide support and nutrition. Eating the right foods will improve the efficiency of your nervous system, while a bad diet can lead to life-threatening diseases. Fatty foods have perhaps the strongest effect on your nervous system.
INSULIN, DIABETES AND OBESITY
It’s no surprise that a diet high in fat will in turn make you fat and put you at risk for diabetes. However, you may be surprised to learn that your central nervous system or CNS plays a major role in this process. Insulin is responsible for the ingestion, distribution, metabolism and storage of nutrients. In order to complete its tasks, the CNS relies on the signals of the neurons to maintain stability of food intake, energy expenditure and nutrient metabolism. Recent studies suggest that obesity and diabetes can result from a lack of insulin signaling in the CNS. What does this have to do with fatty foods? High levels of free fatty acids or FFAs can lead to insulin resistance in the liver and muscles. This affects the CNS in a way that may lead to obesity and diabetes.
DOPAMINE AND ADDICTION
Diets high in fat can reduce the levels of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the reward and pleasure centers in your brain. Movement and emotional responses are also a result of dopamine neurotransmitters. At the annual 2010 meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior, researchers revealed that a diet high in fat reduced levels of dopamine and dopamine re-uptake. Low levels of dopamine can make you more prone to addiction. One common response to low dopamine levels is overeating. The urge to eat more after quitting smoking, for example, is the result of low dopamine levels. Parkinson’s disease can also be a result of low dopamine levels.
Suicide and depression have a relation to fatty foods as well. In this case, not enough fatty food in your diet can lead to depression. People are encouraged to lower the amount of fat and cholesterol they consume due to the risk to vascular diseases. Research shows that people with low-fat diets are more at risk for depression. Serotonin, often known as the “Happy Juice,” is a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in mood regulation. Diets low in fat may reduce the fats in nerve-cell membranes, therefore weakening serotonin receptors.
REGULATING FATTY FOODS
In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle that avoids depression, diabetes, obesity and addiction, eat the correct amount of the right fats. Your should get 30 percent of your caloric intake coming from fat, or more specifically, unsaturated fat. Avoid saturated and trans fats. Good unsaturated fats include nuts such as almonds and walnuts; avocados; olives; olive, sesame or peanut oil; flaxseed; and fish. Multiply your daily caloric intake by 0.3 to find out how many calories of fat to consume and divide by 9 to find out how many grams of fat. For example, on a 2,000 calorie diet, you would multiply 2,000 by 0.3 to get 600, and then divide by 9 for a total of 66.6 grams of unsaturated fats.