The consumption of junk foods may
lead to memory loss, suggests new research. Poor diet was found to induce
memory loss in rodents in as early as six days.
A team of researchers from the University of New South Wales experimented with rats; rats were placed on a diet rich in sugar and fat. The performance of these rats were compared with rodents on a healthy diet. At the end of just six days, those rats on poor diet were found to develop memory loss.
"Poor diet was associated with a cognitive decline that happened very quickly," researcher Margaret Morris said.
We were surprised at how fast it was."
The researchers observed inflammation in the hippocampus in these animals; the hippocampus is a part of the brain involved in formation and storage of memory.
Memory issues in rats became apparent before the appearance of physical symptoms. "The animals of course weren't obese after just six days on the diet. So the changes in cognition, the loss of memory, happened well before there was any weight change," said Professor Morris.
"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," Professor Morris observed.
So now comes the question, is the new finding applicable to humans? Unfortunately clear evidences are yet to be available.
"It's hard of course to extrapolate to humans. But there is data in human volunteers fed a poor junk diet for just five days, that there was a loss of executive function."
A healthy diet however is undoubtedly a necessity for a healthy mind and body. Inappropriate diet may very well hamper our cognitive capabilities.
"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 diet may be more likely to have problems."
"People might be less aware of their internal cues like hunger pangs and knowing when they have had enough."
The latest study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and published in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity.