Score one for fat: Fatty foods might contain memory enhancers. University of California, Irvine, scientists found that oleic acids from fats—and the compound oleoylethanolamide used in the lab—send signals to the memory-forming amygdala.
(All of my grandmother's recipe cards call for "oleo," short for "oleomargarine," as the butter substitute was originally known. Perhaps that explains my fond memories of her peach dumplings and sugar cookies.)
One of the scientists offered an evolutionary explanation for the fat/fond memory relationship:
"By helping mammals remember where and when they have eaten a fatty meal, OEA's memory-enhancing activity seems to have been an important evolutionary tool for early humans and other animals. Remembering the location and context of a fatty meal was probably an important survival mechanism for early humans."
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reminds us that there's a lot we still don't know about the moving parts (so to speak) of human biology. The researchers seems to have been originally investigating the compound for its potential in encouraging weight loss. While it's still far too early to tell what the human applications might be—the fats are being tested on rats for now—there's discussion that this might be good news for Alzheimer's patients as well. You never know what you're going to find on your way to developing much-condemned "frivolous" pharma.