Researchers find a western-style diet can impair brain function.
The UK Guardian includes an article: “Researchers find a western-style diet can impair brain function” by Ian Sample.
Consuming a western diet for as little as one week can subtly impair brain function and encourage slim and otherwise healthy young people to overeat, scientists claim.
The finding suggests that a western diet makes it harder for people to regulate their appetite, and points to disruption in a brain region called the hippocampus as the possible cause.
“After a week on a western-style diet, palatable food such as snacks and chocolate becomes more desirable when you are full,” said Richard Stevenson, a professor of psychology at Macquarie University in Sydney.
“This will make it harder to resist, leading you to eat more, which in turn generates more damage to the hippocampus and a vicious cycle of overeating.”
“When the hippocampus functions less efficiently, you do get this flood of memories, and so food is more appealing,” Stevenson said.
To investigate how the western diet affects humans, the scientists recruited 110 lean and healthy students, aged 20 to 23, who generally ate a good diet. Half were randomly assigned to a control group who ate their normal diet for a week. The other half were put on a high energy western-style diet, which featured a generous intake of Belgian waffles and fast food.
At the start and end of the week, the volunteers ate breakfast in the lab. Before and after the meal, they completed word memory tests and scored a range of high-sugar foods, such as Coco Pops, Frosties and Froot Loops, according to how much they wanted and then liked the foods on eating them.
“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,” Stevenson said. The finding suggests that disruption of the hippocampus may underpin both, he added.
Stevenson believes that in time governments will come under pressure to impose restrictions on processed food, much as they did to deter 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,” he said. The work is published in Royal Society Open Science.
In the longer term, eating a western-style diet contributes to obesity and diabetes, both of which have been linked to declines in brain performance and the risk of developing dementia.
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