Was there a word just on the tip of your tongue recently that you couldn’t quite remember? Are you having a difficult time staying focused at the office? Or maybe you’re having trouble remembering events from your not-so-distant past that were once easily accessible to you. Don’t be too quick to pass it off as an age-related issue or a momentary mental “glitch.” It may very well be diet-related!
A new study coming out of the University of New South Wales in Australia has linked a diet high in sugar and fat to restricted cognitive abilities — after just one week! It is thought that the results of this study may improve the current understanding of how obesity and excessive weight gain affect the body.
FoodFacts.com has reported on older studies that have linked obesity with mental health difficulties like depression. But is hasn’t been clear whether or not unhealthy dietary habits actually affect the brain. This new study sought to clarify this by evaluating cognitive changes in rats fed a diet high in both sugar and fat.
For a one week period, the test animals were assigned one of three meal plans — a healthy diet, an unhealthy diet emphasizing cake, chips and cookies, and a healthy diet taken with sugar water. The first and second meal plan groups represented control and treatment groups respectively. The third plan was experimental and attempted to isolate the effect of excessive sugar intake.
It was found that in both the treatment and experimental group, the subjects exhibited cognitive impairments after only one week. These impairments were exhibited as a reduced ability to recognize certain objects. The results suggest that even a temporary diet high in sugar and fat may have serious consequences. Researchers were surprised at the speed with which the cognitive deterioration took place. In addition, preliminary data may suggest that this damage is not reversed when the subjects are switched back to a healthy diet.
In addition, these rats had signs of inflammation in their brain’s hippocampal area — a cerebral center associated with spatial memory. This suggests that the inflammatory responses recorded in obese people may not be limited to fat tissue.
Researchers are hopeful that these results are relevant to people. They noted that while nutrition affects the brain at every age, it is critical as we age and may be significant in preventing cognitive decline.
So the next time you reach for a high fat, high sugar food option, it might be important to remember the results of this study. And if you’re having trouble reaching for that information, well … let’s say that might just be your brain on junk food! It’s time for us all to consider the way our diets affect our brains, as well as the rest of our bodies.