Junk food and your memory

Here’s another reason to cut back on foods high in sugar and saturated fat.

Overindulging in junk food may have an impact on your memory and learning ability, a study at the University of NSW has found.

The study, published in Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, found that rats who were placed on a high sugar and fat diet for one week experienced difficulity in spatial recognition – the ability to notice when an object had been moved to a new location. For us humans, poor spatial memory means that tasks like navigation and recalling where everyday items are located (now where did you leave your keys again?) become more difficult.

Of course, humans are not rats, but Professor Margaret Morris, the head of pharmacology at the University of NSW, said there is evidence that short-term exposure to junk food could affect human memory by increasing inflammation in the hippocampus, the brain structure which is critical for memory and learning.

”We know obesity causes inflammation in the body, but we didn’t realise until recently that it causes changes in the brain,” said Professor Morris said. ”Our preliminary data also indicates that the damage is not reversed when the rats are switched back to a healthy diet.”

 

Recommended reading - Issue Thirteen Spring 2015

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