High-fat diet harmful to young brain development
NEW RESEARCH suggests that an excess of fatty foods could affect the brain development of the young, potentially leading to cognitive defects later in life.
Carried out by researchers from Switzerland’s ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich, the study looked at the difference in brains of young and adult mice who consumed either normal food, or an extremely high-fat diet, which contained excessively high levels of saturated fats commonly found in fast foods, processed meats, butter and coconut oil.
After a period of just four weeks, the team observed the first signs of cognitive impairment in the young mice fed the high-fat diet, which could be seen even before the mice had started to gain weight.
A person’s age when the fatty foods are consumed is particularly important, as high-fat foods tend to have an even stronger negative impact on the maturation of the prefrontal cortex during the period of late childhood to early adulthood.
This part of the brain takes longer to mature than others, leaving it more vulnerable to negative environmental experiences such as stress, infections and trauma, and now, possibly a poor diet.
As it is responsible for the executive functions of the human brain including memory, planning, attention, impulse control and social behaviour, if it is not functioning correctly or damaged in anyway, it can lead to cognitive deficits and personality changes such as a loss of inhibitions, aggressiveness, or childish and compulsive behaviour.
Although the study was carried out on mice, the researchers pointed out that the results of the mice study are readily translatable to humans, explaining that “as in humans, the prefrontal cortex in mice matures mainly during adolescence”.
The functions that this area of the brain carries out are also similar for both mice and humans, as are the neuronal structures affected by fatty foods. – AFPRelaxnews