High fat, high sugar, we all know that sometimes the foods we crave most are the worst for us. Yeah, I get that. But new findings on the subject in an Oregon State University study suggest high fat-or high sugar can cause changes in the bacteria in the gut that affect our brain function.
Typically, bacteria release compounds that act as neurotransmitters which stimulate sensory nerves and the immune system, and affect a wide range of biological functions. In test diets high in fat or sugar, bacterial communication with the brain was impaired. And the body's ability to adapt and adjust to changing situations or, "cognitive flexibility," was reduced.
The research was done using laboratory mice, fed various diets and put through a battery of challenges to monitor changes in mental and physical function and the impact on various types of bacteria. In just four weeks, test scores on the challenges started dropping in both the high fat and high sugar mice compared to the "normal" diet group.
Most dramatic was the reduction in cognitive flexibility. The team says their work indicates it's not just the food that could be influencing our brain, but the interaction between the food and microbial changes.
A study at Oregon State University indicates that both a high-fat and a high-sugar diet, compared to a normal diet, cause changes in gut bacteria that appear related to a significant loss of "cognitive flexibility," or the power to adapt and adjust to changing situations. This effect was most serious on the high-sugar diet, which also showed an impairment of early learning for both long-term and short-term memory.
Credit: NSF/Karson Productions