- The Role of Brains in the Evolution of Humankind
- Phosphatidylserine: Brain's Magical Secret
- Brain To Improve Your Mood (The Benefits of Phosphatidylserine)
- Brain Is The Only Nootropic (or should be)
- BDNF & Sphingolipids
- How To Get Brain In Your Diet
Over 3 years ago, I forayed into the world of animal-based nutrition for the first time. I’ve changed my opinions on some things. I now include honey and seasonal fruit in my diet where I didn’t before, but the one thing I haven’t changed or slowed down on is my emphasis on eating organs. I think it’s clear these now-uncommon foods are actually nature’s greatest superfoods; So great, in fact, that I started a desiccated organ supplement company Heart & Soil so everyone can access these incredible foods.
Liver has become at least somewhat mainstream since I began my work, and thank God for that. Liver is the most nutrient-dense food on the planet, and when predators make a kill in the wild, the liver is almost always one of the first things eaten. In the words of my friend Joe Rogan, “The Alpha eats the liver.”
But what if liver is not actually the most important food in human history? After all, many animals consume liver, yet no other creature is quite like us. With our advanced brain and ability to manipulate the world around us, humans are unique in ways unseen elsewhere in the kingdom of animals. The evolution of the human brain is one of nature’s greatest mysteries, and I believe the answer lies with another organ: the brain.
You see, most animals can’t access the brain of their kill. Prey with significant brain tissue have larger heads and skulls, strong enough that even bears and wolves can’t easily get inside. The ancestors of man had the key to this nutrient-rich tissue: Tools. Anthropologic evidence supports the idea that humans and our ancestors regularly consumed brains.
Brain may have been the key to the evolution of mankind. The nutrient profile alone is enough to blow one’s mind (no pun intended.) Powerful compounds like Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF,) Phosphatidylserine and Sphingolipids exist in high amounts in brain tissue, but are difficult to find elsewhere. These compounds have shown incredible effects on brain function and other processes in the human body, and firsthand accounts of hunter-gatherer behavior corroborate the high value with which I esteem this food.
In essence, you should eat Brain, and this is why.
The Role of Brains in the Evolution of Humankind
I used to wonder if fat alone could create the human brain. By using tools, the ancestors of ancient man could access fat even in small kills by breaking open bones and eating the marrow. Still, while our ancestors and other species of the homo genus were the planet’s greatest hunters, we weren’t the only ones with access to fat. Bears, wolves, and extinct species like the saber tooth tiger all had their fill of fatty, large herbivores.
It could be that we simply ate more than these predators, which is certainly possible and even probable based on the evidence, but I wonder if it had to do with another key difference: we ate brains. Other carnivores can’t access the brain of larger prey. Bears have been observed to eat high amounts of salmon brains, which have small, soft skulls that are easy to crush, but it’s rare for them to eat the brains of larger prey. Typically wolves, lions, and other carnivores will first eat the liver, perhaps the heart, and leave the skull behind.
Humans and our ancestors have not been so limited. Stone tools let us break open the bones and skulls of animals, providing us with greater calorie access even from small kills. Furthermore, we could get into the skulls of our larger prey. Sites have been discovered abundant in animal skulls, evidence that humans would carry the skulls back to their tribes and consume the brains there. We also might have been able to scavenge because of brain. Most meat will go rancid with bacteria as time passes, but bone marrow and brain is encased in a barrier of bone. Ancient man and our ancestors could have scavenged bones and skulls long after the other meat went rancid. The internal marrow and brain would still be good, meaning an even greater likelihood we relied on this food.
Alongside the anthropological theories, we also have firsthand accounts of the role of brain in the diet of modern hunter-gatherers.
Terry Anderson, former president of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) and author, wrote of the Native Americans on a successful buffalo hunt: “To the man who killed the animal belonged the hide and one portion of tezhu´ [side of meat] and the brains.” https://www.perc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/ps6.pdf
Dr Kirsten Borre of the Inuit in the northern Arctic circle explains that the liver and brain was desired after a fresh seal kill. “When fresh seal is eaten after the hunt, the hunter slits the abdomen laterally, exposing the internal organs. Hunters first eat pieces of liver, which is described as rich in blood, or they use a tea cup to gather some blood to drink. The hunter may then chop pieces of fat and brain together and mix it with the remaining blood to eat with meat usually from the flanks” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227664737_Seal_Blood_Inuit_Blood_and_Diet_A_Biocultural_Model_of_Physiology_and_Cultural_Identity
As I’ve long preached, humans eat animals from nose-to-tail, and brain is a prize cut in societies that still live like our ancestors.
Let’s see if we can figure out why.
Phosphatidylserine: Brain’s Magical Secret
If brain is the secret to the evolution of humankind, phosphatidylserine could be one of the biggest reasons why. This compound has a ton of incredible benefits for our brains and our health at large. Bovine brain contains approximately 700mg of phosphatidylserine per 100g, and that’s in cooked brain. It beats out the next highest source, Atlantic Mackerel, by almost 200mg, making it the best known dietary source of this compound by no small margin.
Created by the body to build the membranes of the brain, this compound is mostly unique to animal foods and specifically to brain. Outside of brain, animal foods are the best way to get this compound, and organ meats in general average 300mg per 100g. Soy lecithin is one of the only significant plant sources of phosphatidylserine, and it only contains 3% phosphatidylserine out of its total phospholipids. With the many health consequences of soy, the benefits here aren’t worth the risks.
Brain To Improve Your Mood (The Benefits of Phosphatidylserine)
One of the biggest reasons I became fascinated with animal-based nutrition is because of the link between diet and mental health. I believe autoimmunity from food sensitivities is a major driver of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. When I started reading about phosphatidylserine, I realized there might be more solutions in animal-based nutrition than I previously thought.
Based on the data in this study, consistent use of oral phosphatidylserine may counteract stress-induced activation of the Hypothalamus Pituitary Axis (HPA-Axis.)
I don’t love the idea of using pharmaceuticals or medicinal plants for anxiety if you can avoid it. It’s not that I think they can’t help, but these compounds should all come with a package insert because they all have side effects. Plants don’t want to be eaten, and often herbs contain some of the highest levels of plant compounds.
Brain is not like these foods. It is an animal-based organ meat, it does not contain defense chemicals, and it promotes health by supplying compounds that your body uses to directly fuel or repair itself.
In addition to the effect on the HPA-axis, phosphatidylserine from the bovine cortex lowered circadian cortisol levels in members of this study, reducing late-life depression and improving stress-hormone patterns.
Brain Is The Only Nootropic (or should be)
Nootropics are defined as non-stimulant compounds that improve mental function without side effects. He distinguishes nootropics from smart drugs by clarifying that these compounds lack harmful side effects.
But with few exceptions, most nootropics are made up of herbs or compounds that were derived from plants. Plants don’t want to be eaten, and they prevent predation with chemical defense mechanisms.
One of the biggest problems in nutrition is the classification of so many plant defense chemicals as being healthy, without long-term research or what I would consider a proper analysis of the mechanisms.
Yes, in the short term many of these compounds can indirectly cause positive biological changes. I say indirectly because rarely do these compounds actually enter your bloodstream. Instead, the positive effects you feel are a result of your body reacting to the chemical insult caused by the plants you ate.
For example, many foods deemed “antioxidants” actually cause oxidation and inflammation in your body. Then your body responds by making glutathione, which actually is our endogenous antioxidant. Overall, the inflammation in your body lowers, but the plant compounds aren’t actually doing the job. They just triggered your own body to create anti-inflammatory compounds. In long term studies of many plant antioxidants, the initial benefits fade away and negatives often come up.
So many nootropic compounds act in just this manner. They trigger your body to use more of its own resources, resulting in the short-term boosts in mental function. Huperzine A is a common nootropic compound that acts as an acetylcholinase inhibitor, resulting in more acetylcholine in your receptors. However your body will just adapt to this, and there will be a rebound when you stop. There’s no “free lunch” with nootropics, and I think of them as borrowing tomorrow’s focus and energy today. The bill comes due.
I plan to do another article about the problems with most nootropics soon, but in short, I believe very few plant compounds are beneficial without a hidden price. With that said, organs are the only nootropics I truly promote, and brain is chief among them.
In addition to the mood-stabilizing qualities of phosphatidylserine, it shows great power-boosting mental function and even reducing the symptoms of ADD and ADHD. In addition to the benefits for ADD, Phosphatidylserine improved several markers of cognitive function in patients when compared with placebo in this study, and had positive effects when used by early-stage Dementia and Altzheimer’s here. It’s been shown to reduce cognitive decline in the elderly and may have utility for improving the condition Multiple Sclerosis.
Let me state this again: Brain is the highest food source of Phosphatidylserine. That alone would make brain a powerful nootropic, but phosphatidylserine is just one of many compounds in brain that can improve your life.
Brain also contains good amounts of choline, which is used to create the neurotransmitter acetyl-choline. This neurotransmitter plays a crucial role in memory and recall, and choline-rich foods are essential for supporting mental function. Choline also supports muscle control, liver and cardiac health, and weight management.
These compounds have been well established to influence mental function positively when consumed, but there are also compounds in brain that may play a hidden role.
BDNF & Sphingolipids
One of my core beliefs about organ meats is that they offer something special and unique beyond their nutrient profiles alone. Sure, getting nature’s most bioavailable nutrients from its most nutrient-dense foods is incredibly powerful, but I just think there’s more to it.
For example, The Native Americans believed in a concept called “like-supports-like.” They thought eating an organ from an animal could be used to heal and support those organs in your own body. We strongly believe in ancestral wisdom here at Heart & Soil, and based on my own experiences as well as those of the thousands of customers who have left reviews, I think there really is more to the picture.
For one thing, raw organs contain peptides and growth factors that have powerful roles to play in our physiology. Peptides are molecules that initiate biological responses. They’re sort of like keys or access codes that kick off system-wide changes. Peptides are not new, and they’ve been researched and used extensively in the fitness and health community for decades.
What’s interesting about peptides is how many of them are created by organs in our bodies.
We don’t yet know what effect these compounds have when we get them in our diet, or how they may work synergistically in a whole food matrix. What we do know is that organ meats contain many of these compounds, some we know the role of and others we haven’t studied yet.
Brain is no exception. Brain tissue contains Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF, as well as sphingolipids.
BDNF is intimately involved in nervous system function, including such known roles as control of neuronal and glial development, neuroprotection, and modulation of both short- and long-lasting synaptic interactions, which are critical for cognition and memory.
How To Get Brain In Your Diet
Alright, so we’ve gone over the benefits of brain. Now, where the hell do you actually get it?
It’s a good question. In the United States, you can’t really get beef brain. Fears over prion diseases like mad cow prevent the sale of most beef brain in the states. You can source goat and lamb brains more easily, but we’ve decided to address this problem directly with a new supplement.
We just released Mood, Memory, & Brain, which contains more beef brain than any other organ supplement on the market. We make Mood, Memory & Brain with Beef Brain from New Zealand Cows, which are extensively tested and haven’t displayed a case of mad cow disease in over 3 decades.
I am beyond excited about this supplement guys. The biggest reason I started pursuing animal-based diets was to address the link between nutrition and mental health. While most of this pursuit has been with regard to turning off auto-immunity, Brain is a real-life, true nootropic. It can actually help address mood issues, focus, and mental clarity directly and without all the side effects of plant foods.
You can grab Mood Memory and Brain at https://shop.heartandsoil.co/products/mood-memory-brain.
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