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Junk food could be damaging your brain, a study finds

A recently published study into the impact of fatty, sugary foods on adolescent rat brains showed they caused lasting memory impairment.

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PUBLISHED

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Less than 1 minute Minutes

UPDATED: 22 Apr 2024, 7:31 am

A high-fat, sugary diet can cause long-term memory loss in rats, a new study published in the academic journal Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity has found. 

Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) surmised that foods laden with simple sugars and saturated fats, when ingested from a young age, disrupted a key neurotransmitter called acetylcholine in the rodents’ brains.

Acetylcholine helps humans (and animals) learn and remember events from their pasts. Deficiencies in it have been linked to people with Alzheimer’s disease.

One of the study’s authors, Scott Kanowski, said that its findings indicated that “if these rats grew up on this junk food diet, then they have these memory impairments that don’t go away [naturally].” The neuroscientist made his comments via a USC press release.

[See more: Consuming refined carbohydrates can make you less attractive]

Kanowski and his colleagues fed one group of young rats a fatty, sugary diet while providing a control group with healthy food over a period stretching into their adulthoods. In memory tests conducted on both groups, the first performed comparatively poorly.

The memory problems in rats raised on junk food persisted even when they were switched to the healthier diet, leading researchers to believe the damage was done during their rodent adolescence. That’s when the brain is its most sensitive, Kanowski noted.

“That signal [from acetylcholine] appears to not be happening in the animals that grew up eating the fatty, sugary diet,” he said.

The study also found that two drugs, PNU-282987 and carbachol, helped restore the rats’ memories. Both drugs induce the release of acetylcholine.

UPDATED: 22 Apr 2024, 7:31 am

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