High-fat diets may damage your brain and contribute to obesity


High fat diets may damage your brain

The holiday season is known for family, friends, and of course, food. A recent study suggests that the high-fat diet associated with the holidays may not only endanger one’s physical health, but may also affect brain health. This article from Medical News Today gives us some insight.

This study, published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, explains the potential damaging affects of eating a high-fat diet for an extended period of time. Dr. Alexis M. Stranahan, member of the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University, and her colleagues tested this theory.

The team took used mice and split them into two groups. One was given a diet in which about 10% of the calories came from saturated fat, and the other group ate chow that contained 60% fat. This diet is claimed to represent a healthy versus fast-food diet in people.

The mice were checked at 4, 8, and 12 weeks after they started the diet for weight, blood glucose levels, food intake, insulin levels, and hippocampi of the brain. This part of the brain is associated with learning and memory. “Specifically, they measured levels of synaptic markers in the hippocampus- proteins that represent the number of synapses in the brain- and cytokine levels, which are markers of inflammation”

The first two check-ups showed little change in the synaptic markers, meaning that after two months there was no change to the brain, but the high-fat diet mice had gained weight. Four weeks later, however, the “fast-food” mice had become obese and has lost synaptic markers. This means that synapses were being destroyed in the hippocampus. The team explains that “when there is too much fat in the body, this leads to chronic inflammation, triggering an autoimmune response from microglia- glial cells that form the primary immune defense in the central nervous system”. These microglia usually help clean the brain, which “helps to protect and strengthen neurons”. However, with high levels of fat in the body, this process is impaired.

However, the study did show hope for those who thoroughly enjoyed their holidays with double helpings of mom’s special roast. After 12 weeks, half of the mice that were on the high-fat diet were changed to the low-fat diet. The mice that continued the high-fat diet continued to gain weight and lose synapses, while the mice that changed diets not only lost weight, but also stopped losing important synapses.

So, what does this mean for you? Not all hope is lost! Yes, the holidays are a hard time for everyone and keeping up with the strict diet is usually more difficult during this time of year. But, if you join the New Year’s resolution crowd in the gym and on a diet, you could be down some weight and up some synapses in just a few months.