High-fat diet harm­ful to young brain de­vel­op­ment

The Sun (Malaysia) - - LIFESTYLE -

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

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