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A diet high in fat is a miracle brain booster

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

Eat more fat, get a younger brain

Bring on the eggs fried in butter with a glass of whole milk and a side of guacamole: Fat is back! And I don't mean the kind on your thighs. (Although that would be cool — can we make that happen?) A new study found that dietary fat can help protect your brain from dementia and other signs of aging.

I'm all for letting hair gray naturally, not trying to hide wrinkles (aka life lines) and respecting the wisdom of people who've been in this world longer than I have. In our youth-obsessed society it needs to be said: Younger is not always better. But when it comes to my brain? Make me a baby, please. I watched my grandmother go through Alzheimer's and I'd like none of that. It was alternately heartbreaking and horrifying. (Except the part where she forgot why she was mad at all of us. That was awesome.)

Unfortunately, up until recently, brain age — as measured by a variety of factors like structural evaluations and performance on cognitive tests — has been one of those things that didn't seem like we had a ton of control over. But now a new study shows that eating a diet rich in fat, particularly a type called medium-chain fatty acids, can not only protect our brains from the ravages of aging but can actually slow the aging process and delay the onset of cognitive diseases like Alzheimer's.

The research, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, studied mice with a particular genetic defect that made them age faster than their peers. When the furry little guys ate a diet high in fats like coconut oil they not only slowed down their overall aging process but their brains particularly benefited.

"Our study suggests that a high-fat diet can postpone aging processes. A diet high in fat also seems to postpone the aging of the brain. The findings therefore potentially imply that patients with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease in the long term may benefit from the new knowledge," says Vilhelm Bohr, Ph.D., from the Center for Healthy Aging, University of Copenhagen and the National Institute of Health, and lead author of the paper.

So forget all that anti-fat crappola we were taught in the '90s. According to the scientists, a high-fat diet can be very healthy and it's not just limited to so-called "healthy fats" like olive oil and avocados (although those are still good too). Foods rich in MCFAs like coconut oil, whole milk, cheese and butter showed the best results and even animal fats all seemed to contribute to the brain boosting. Just stay away from anything man-made (like trans fats), which is probably good dietary advice all around.

I know what I'm having for dinner! (Seriously, I'm having a whole coconut. I love coconuts so much.)

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