Junk food diet could lead to lasting memory issues

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NEW YORK, April 22: Evidence continues to mount against the consumption of junk food, with a recent study shedding light on its detrimental effects on memory. Conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC), the study found that rats fed a diet high in fats and sugars from a young age exhibited lasting memory impairments.

Scott Kanoski, a neuroscientist at USC, explains, “What we see not just in this paper, but in some of our other recent work, is that if these rats grew up on this junk food diet, then they have these memory impairments that don’t go away.”

The research, published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, delves into the disruption of acetylcholine, a crucial neurotransmitter involved in memory, by diets high in simple sugars and saturated fats. This disruption, observed in rats fed unhealthy diets during adolescence, raises concerns about the long-term cognitive effects in humans, particularly regarding Alzheimer’s disease risk.

Previous studies have linked the consumption of processed foods to Alzheimer’s risk in later life, prompting researchers to investigate the impact of sugary, fatty diets on younger individuals. The findings suggest that such diets not only impair memory but also affect appetite control and satisfaction, potentially leading to obesity-related complications.

To simulate the adolescent phase in humans, the research team fed rats a high-fat, sugary diet from 26 to 56 days old, a critical period of brain development. The rats displayed significant memory impairments in subsequent tests, struggling to identify new objects or detect slight changes in familiar objects.

Furthermore, imaging revealed reduced levels of acetylcholine transport proteins in the hippocampus, a brain region crucial for memory consolidation. Drugs that stimulated acetylcholine release in the hippocampus restored memory function in affected rats, highlighting the role of acetylcholine signaling in memory formation.

While the study underscores the detrimental effects of unhealthy diets on memory, further research is needed to understand the nuances, including differences in timing and sex observed in previous studies. Nevertheless, the findings underscore the importance of dietary choices in brain health and cognition, serving as a reminder of the risks associated with the consumption of high-fat, sugary foods.

This news has been read 477 times!

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