A landmark Australian study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, has revealed an alarming link between an unhealthy diet and a smaller brain. According to the new study, an unhealthy diet heavy in fast-food has an irreversible effect on brain development and health.
Researchers focused on the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with ordering and sequencing thoughts. The study (which used a core sample of more than 250 Canberrans aged over sixty years) utilised MRI scanning technology to assess the size and overall measurements of the hippocampus region. As you’ll see, the results were stunning.
“The hippocampus is absolutely central to learning and memory,” Deakin University Associate Professor Felice Jacka told the ABC’s Science Department. “Basically your hippocampus gets smaller as you age, and the difference we found between people with good diets and people with poor diets in terms of their left hippocampal volume, it counted for about 60 per cent of that aged-related decline. So it’s a not insubstantial amount.”
In short, the team found those responders who regularly consumed unhealthy foods were likely to suffer a combination of both physical and mental harm. Their findings add dimension to the claim that fast-food and other fat-heavy products can undermine one’s general sense of wellbeing. “The quality of people’s diets is related to their risk for depression in particular,” Prof. Jacka said. “What we haven’t known until now is how that might actually work. And we’ve seen before in many of the animal experiments that if you manipulate diet you can change hippocampal function, but this is the first time we’ve seen it in humans.”
“In a way food is like petrol for our body and if you put into your car petrol that is dirty or watered down you’re really not going to get the best outcome from your car,” she explained. “And in the same way, the food that we put in our mouths needs to be of the best quality.”
The report’s authors have called for greater control over marketing aimed at specific demographic groups and for increased taxes being placed on unhealthy fast foods.
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