The more I learn about fish oil, the happier I am that salmon tastes so good. Fish is an excellent source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is an essential part of the human brain and appears to be vital for healthy brain function.
In fact, it’s possible that an expanded diet that included fish and other aquatic creatures was a necessary part of the process by which our brains grew to their relatively large size. A recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examines fossils from a site in Kenya that indicate that pre-Homo hominins had added aquatic animals to their diet about 1.95 million years ago, before the emergence of Homo erectus and other ancestor species to our own. Perhaps the addition of these protein-rich and DHA-rich creatures to the hominin diet provided the energy and nutrients needed to support bigger brains. This story from Wired has more information, and the paper is:
Early hominin diet included diverse terrestrial and aquatic animals 1.95 Ma in East Turkana, Kenya, David R. Braun, John W. K. Harris, Naomi E. Levin, Jack T. McCoy, Andy I. R. Herries, Marion K. Bamford, Laura C. Bishop, Brian G. Richmond, and Mzalendo Kibunjia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 107 No. 22, June 2, 2010.
The Economist has written this article about a recent “Celebration of DHA” in London. The article briefly describes the importance of DHA for not just the emergence of large human brains, but perhaps the emergence of nervous systems in the first place. It also talks about the current human diet in many industrialized countries, which tends to substitute omega-6 fats for omega-3 fats, and goes into some of the detrimental effects of this switch. Eat your fish!