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High-Fat Diets Harm Young Brains

High-Fat Diets Harm Young Brains

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Monday, 21 November 2016 11:58 AM

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 a team of researchers from ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich, Switzerland, 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, charcuterie products, 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.

The same changes in the behavior of mature mice that had been fed a high-fat diet over an extended period were not seen, although they suffered from other health problems as their metabolic systems were severely disrupted and they became obese. However Urs Meyer, one of the study's authors, pointed out that, "This does not rule out the possibility that a high-fat diet may also be harmful for the brains of adult mice."

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 as seen in the study, possibly a poor diet.

As it is responsible for the executive functions of the human brain including memory, planning, attention, impulse control and social behavior, if it 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 or compulsive behavior.

Although the study was carried out on mice, Professor Meyer 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.

However the professor also noted that very few children and teens consume the same amount of fat in their diet as what was given to the mice, who received over 60 percent of their calories in the form of fats, an exaggerated amount to clearly demonstrate the effect of fatty foods on the maturation of the brain.

"Anyone eating fast food once a week is unlikely to be at risk," he commented.

Nevertheless, Professor Meyer did add that more attention needs to be paid to nutrition in childhood and encourages a well-balanced diet high in nutritious foods.

The findings can be found online published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

© AFP/Relaxnews 2019

   
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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 a team of researchers from ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich, Switzerland, the study looked at...
fatty, foods, high-fat, diets, harm, brain, development
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2016-58-21
Monday, 21 November 2016 11:58 AM
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