Attention, moms and students everywhere: This could help solve the great conundrum on what constitutes the best study snack. According to a promising study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, monounsaturated fatty acids (the kind found in avocados, nuts, and olive oil) could play an important role in brain organization and intelligence.
The study investigated 99 healthy adults, monitoring the levels of monounsaturated fat (MUFA) in their blood alongside brain scan MRIs and general intelligence tests. The MRI results evaluated the efficiency of participants’ brain networks, a potential indicator for intelligence. Participants who ate more MUFAs seemed to have more efficient networks, based on their scans.
In other words, more avocados, olive oil, and other fatty foods are likely related to more efficient brain patterns, and therefore greater intelligence. Low-fat diets showed less efficient brain patterns — and potentially could inhibit your intellect.
“Historically, the approach has been to focus on individual nutrients,” said Dr. Aron Barbey, one of the professors involved in the study. “But we know that dietary intake doesn't depend on any one specific nutrient; rather, it reflects broader dietary patterns.”
The dietary patterns involving more of the healthy MUFAs caused noticeable differences in the brain’s dorsal attention network, the portion responsible for attention span and focus on stimulus-driven tasks. The more avocados you eat, the better you could be at paying attention in class. The findings suggest that these functions of attention span play a pivotal role in intelligence as a whole.
“This gives us evidence of the mechanisms by which nutrition affects intelligence,” Barbey says, “and motivates promising new directions for future research in nutritional cognitive neuroscience.” So for those who have a hard time paying attention in science class, we suggest you bring an avocado along — evidently, it could help solve more than just your hunger.