Western-style diet can impair brain function: Study

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Feb 19, 2020, 01.49 PM(IST)

File photo: Junk food Photograph:( Others )

Story highlights

The findings of the study suggest that a western diet makes it harder for people to regulate their appetite, and points to disruption in a brain region called the hippocampus as the possible cause.

Consuming a Western diet for even one week can subtly impair brain function and encourage slim and otherwise healthy young people to overeat, according to a new study.

As per the research, after seven days on high fat, high added sugar diet, volunteers in their 20s scored worse on memory tests and found junk food more desirable immediately after they had finished a meal.

The findings of the study suggest that a western diet makes it harder for people to regulate their appetite, and points to disruption in a brain region called the hippocampus as the possible cause.

“After a week on a western-style diet, palatable food such as snacks and chocolate becomes more desirable when you are full,” said co-author Richard Stevenson who is a professor of psychology at Macquarie University in Sydney.

“This will make it harder to resist, leading you to eat more, which in turn generates more damage to the hippocampus and a vicious cycle of overeating,” he added.

To investigate how the western diet affects humans, the scientists recruited 110 lean and healthy students, aged 20 to 23, who generally had a good diet.

Also read: James Corden calls out Bill Maher for his remark over fat-shaming

The group was divided into two parts. One which ate their normal diet for a week. The other half was put on a high energy western-style diet, which featured a generous intake of Belgian waffles and fast food.

Previous studies have also hinted that junk food impairs the hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory and appetite control. 

In the longer term, eating a western-style diet contributes to obesity and diabetes, both of which have been linked to declines in brain performance and the risk of developing dementia.

“The new thinking here is the realisation that a western-style diet may be generating initial and fairly subtle cognitive impairments, that undermine the control of appetite which gradually opens the way for all of these other effects down the track,” Stevenson said.

Understanding the impact of a western diet on brain function is necessary due the current food climate.