While saying that you are what you eat is a bit much, having a diet that is rich is sugar, fat and calories has been known to make people gain weight. And previous psychological experiments have shown that those who regularly indulge in something sweet are more willing to help out others, they’re sweeter in other words.
But, while tasting something sweet on a daily basis makes our hearts bigger, a recent study has also found that diets that rich in sugar and / or fat hurt our brains. Researchers over at Oregon State University say that such diets cause changes in gut bacteria and that these changes can be linked to loss in cognitive flexibility.
It’s the strongest evidence yet that gut bacteria, also known as microbiota, can communicate with the brain. Gut bacteria release compounds that serve as neurotransmitters, stimulate the immune system as well as sensory nerves, and influence many different biological functions. While scientists are not sure what the exact messages that are being sent are, they are actively tracking down their pathways and their effects.
Cognitive flexibility refers to the brain’s ability to switch between focusing on one subject to focusing on another subject, and the ease or difficulty to which it adapts to changes in the surrounding environment.
Dr. Kathy Magnusson, lead author and biomedical scientist over at Oregon State University, gave a statement saying that the scientific community has known for a long time that eating sugar and fat in large quantities is bad for a person’s health.
The results of this partcular study aren’t surprising as they don’t contradict previously held believes, but merely suggest “that fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and that’s one of the reasons those foods aren’t good for you. It’s not just the food that could be influencing your brain, but an interaction between the food and microbial changes”.
For the study, published earlier this week, on Monday (June 22, 2015), in the journal Neuroscience, Dr. Magnusson and her team took several groups of mice, and gave each group either a diet rich in fat, a diet rich in sugar, or a normal, well-balanced diet.
The animals then had to take various physical and mental tests, but the researchers also looked at their fecal samples, both before putting the mice on their new diets, as well as five (5) weeks after they had been put on their new diets.
The results revealed that just four (4) weeks after being put on a diet rich in fat or a diet rich in sugar, the mice were already showing worse performance of several physical and mental tests, especially when compared to those on a normal, well-balanced diet.
Tests of cognitive flexibility in particular were noticeable for the poor performances that the animals gave. The researchers expected them to come up with a new escape route and break free from their cages, however they usually took much too long to complete the task.
High-sugar diets proved to be even more damaging than high-fat diets as the mice in the former category also gave poor results on memory tests and long-term memory tests.
What this means for people, is that those who’ve put themselves on diets that are rich in sugar and / or fat can experience difficulty trying to understand new concepts or trying to adapt to new circumstances such as having to find a new route for a destination that they go to every day.
Image Source: sciencedaily.com