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Eating This Causes Memory Loss in Just 6 Days

By on January 12, 2014
If you’re having trouble dropping your junk food habit, researchers from Australia say there’s another good reason to: It could prevent memory loss.

The study, which was led by University of New South Wales researcher Margaret Morris, found that rats fed a diet high in sugar and fat–two macronutrients often present in junk food–developed memory loss in less than a week.

“Poor diet was associated with a cognitive decline that happened very quickly,” says Morris. “So within six days of the diet, the animals performed less well on a spatial memory task. We were surprised at how fast it was.”

The Study

Working with a team of researchers from the University of New South Wales, Morris used a group of mice to find out how they performed after being subjected to two diets: A diet high in sugar and a diet considered “healthy” by human standards. To do so, laboratory rats were isolated and fed either one of the diets, which they maintained for around a week.

After a week had passed, researchers then checked on how each diet affected their health–and their ability to carry out cognitive tasks.

“The animals of course weren’t obese after just six days on the diet,” says Morris. “So the changes in cognition, the loss of memory, happened well before there was any weight change. What is so surprising about this research is the speed with which the deterioration of the cognition occurred.”

During the cognitive tasks, researchers found that those fed a healthy diet performed optimally–but when it came to those who ate a high sugar diet, serious declines in cognitive performance occurred. For instance, if researchers moved one object to a different spot during testing, the rats fed the high sugar diet weren’t able to detect it was moved.

But scarily enough, rats who went back to eating a healthy diet after being fed excessive amounts of sugar still had memory loss.

The lesson here? A high sugar diet–in essence, a diet rich in junk food–could cause long term memory loss, no matter your weight.

“The role of diet and lifestyle and the impact that it has on memory and whether or not, in people who are getting older, where they’re improving their diet based on eating what we consider to be the optimal diet, can actually, whether that can demonstrate actual improvements in memory,” says Manny Noakes, a CSIRO senior research dietitian. “I think if it is answered in the affirmative, it could lead to a really big difference with how much motivation we have to change the dietary patterns that we have.”

What You Should Do

If you’re at risk for memory loss, it’s time to take action–lower your intake of sugary foods if you haven’t already. Switching processed foods for naturally sweet foods instead, such as apples, bananas, and other fruits, is a healthy way to get your sugar fix without risking your memory in the process.

Readers: How much junk food do you eat every week?

Sources:
Study Links Junk Food to Memory LossABC.net.au
Junk Food Could Cause Cognitive DeclineUniversityHerald.com

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