Junk food can harm memory in a week

December 17, 2013 by Susi Hamilton, University of New South Wales
Junk food can harm memory in a week

(Medical Xpress)—Even a short-term diet of junk food can have a detrimental effect on the brain's cognitive ability, according to UNSW research.

For the first time, researchers have shown that rats fed a diet high in fat and sugar had impaired memory after just a week.

Interestingly, the results were similarly poor for the rats fed a healthy diet and given access to to drink.

The work has been published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

The cognitive impairment related to place recognition, with the showing poorer ability to notice when an object had been shifted to a new location. These animals also had of the hippocampal region of the , which is associated with spatial memory.

"We know that obesity causes inflammation in the body, but we didn't realise until recently that it also causes changes in the brain," says one of the authors Professor Margaret Morris from UNSW Medicine.

"What is so surprising about this research is the speed with which the deterioration of the cognition occurred," says Professor Morris, from the School of Medical Sciences. "Our preliminary data also suggests that the damage is not reversed when the rats are switched back to a , which is very concerning."

Some aspects of the animals' memories were spared, regardless of their diets. All the animals were equally able to recognise objects after eating either the "healthy", "cafeteria" (high in fat and sugar, including cake, chips and biscuits) or "healthy with sugar" regimes.

The change in the animals' memory appeared even prior to the emergence of weight differences between the animals.

Ongoing work will attempt to establish how to stop the inflammation in the brain of animals with the unhealthy diets.

"We suspect that these findings may be relevant to people," says Professor Morris. "While nutrition affects the brain at every age, it is critical as we get older and may be important in preventing cognitive decline. An elderly person with poor may be more likely to have problems. "

The research builds on previous work that has implications for obesity.

"Given that high energy foods can impair the function of the hippocampus, if you eat a lot of them it may contribute to weight gain, by interfering with your episodic memory," says Professor Morris.

"People might be less aware of their internal cues like hunger pangs and knowing when they have had enough," she said.

Explore further: Obesity resulting from high-fat, high-sugar foods may impair brain, fuel overeating

Related Stories

Obesity resulting from high-fat, high-sugar foods may impair brain, fuel overeating

October 1, 2012
"Betcha can't eat just one!" For obese people trying to lose weight, the Lays potato chip advertising slogan hits a bit too close to home as it describes the daily battle to resist high calorie foods.

High-fat diet may cause change in hypothalamus

September 11, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—A high fat diet may damage the part of the brain that controls appetite and energy expenditure which in turn dictates our weight.

Moms' high-fat, sugary diets may lead to offspring with a taste for alcohol, sensitivity to drugs

August 3, 2013
Vulnerability to alcohol and drug abuse may begin in the womb and be linked to how much fatty and sugary foods a mother eats during pregnancy, according to findings from animal lab experiments presented at APA's 121st Annual ...

Childhood exercise may stave off some bad effects of maternal obesity

November 25, 2013
Rats whose mothers were fed a high-fat diet during pregnancy and nursing were able to stave off some of the detrimental health effects of obesity by exercising during their adolescence, new Johns Hopkins research shows.

Weight gain induced by high-fat diet increases active-period sleep and sleep fragmentation

July 10, 2012
Research to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, finds that prolonged exposure to ...

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.