Western Diet Linked To Impaired Brain Function, According To Study

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A study published in Royal Society Open Science looked at the link between a western diet high in fat and sugar and some impaired brain function, reported The Guardian.

The researchers found that subjects who ate a high fat, high added sugar diet for seven days straight scored worse on memory tests than those who didn’t. Additionally, they reported cravings for more junk food immediately after finishing their meal.

For the study, scientists looked at 110 volunteers between the ages of 20 and 23 who reported that they typically followed a healthy diet. Half of the subjects were sent into the control group, which involved eating their normal diet, while the other half were instructed to follow a western diet, including plenty of junk and fast food.

The researchers had the volunteers eat breakfast in the lab once at the start of the week and again at the end of the week. Those on the western diet were given high-sugar foods, such as sugary cereals. Before and after eating, the volunteers completed a word memory test and scored a list of high fat, high sugar foods based on how desirable they were and how much they liked them after consumption.

Scientists found that the volunteers who followed the western diet believed the junk food to be more desirable after eating it and didn’t perform as well as the control group in the memory test.

Junk food sits on a table as British Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver announces a partnership to attack state-wide obesity on March 6, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.
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Richard Stevenson, a professor of psychology at Macquarie University in Sydney, confirmed that after a week on a western-style diet, snacks and chocolate became more desirable when the volunteer was already full. This makes it harder to resist, leading a person to eat more and ultimately enter into a vicious cycle of overeating.

“The more desirable people find the palatable food when full, following the western-style diet, the more impaired they were on the test of hippocampal function.”

Previous studies have found that junk food impairs the ability of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that regulates appetite and is involved in memory. When the hippocampus is impaired, food becomes more appealing, despite feeling full.

Stevenson hopes that with proper pressure, governments around the world will start imposing regulations on processed foods in the same way they did on smoking.

“Demonstrating that processed foods can lead to subtle cognitive impairments that affect appetite and serve to promote overeating in otherwise healthy young people should be a worrying finding for everyone.”

Diets high in sugar have also been linked to other health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, as previously reported by The Inquisitr.