Eating junk food during childhood may lead to long-term, irreversible memory issues –

LOS ANGELES — All parents are aware of the harmful effects that drugs and alcohol can have on a child’s brain development, but new research suggests that moms and dads around the world might want to start considering candy bars as as bad as beer cans. A rodent study at the University of Southern California found that rats fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet during adolescence suffered long-term memory impairment that persisted into adulthood .

Overall, the study authors believe these results show that a diet high in junk food can disrupt a teenager’s memory ability for a long time, just like rats.

“What we see not only in this paper, but in some of our other recent work, is that if these rats grew up on a diet of junk food, then they have memory problems that don’t go away,” explains Scott Kanoski, professor of biological sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, in a press release. “If you just put them on a healthy diet, these effects unfortunately last into adulthood.”

When developing the study, Professor Kanoski and postdoctoral researcher Anna Hayes took into account previous research that found a link between poor diet and Alzheimer’s disease. People with Alzheimer’s disease tend to have lower levels of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine in their brain. This neurotransmitter is essential for memory and many other functions such as learning, attention, arousal and involuntary muscle movements.

So the researchers wondered what this might mean for younger people who eat a similar high-fat, sugary Western diet, especially as their brains undergo significant development during adolescence. By tracking the influence of diet on the rodents’ acetylcholine levels and subjecting the rats to memory tests, the researchers were able to learn more about the important relationship between diet and memory.

The study authors believe their results show that a diet high in junk food can disrupt a teenager’s memory ability for a long time, just like rats. (© TL Furrer –

Next, the study authors tracked acetylcholine levels among a group of rats on a fatty and sugary diet, as well as among a control group of rats. They analyzed their brain responses to certain tasks designed to test their memory. From there, the researchers analyzed the rats’ brains postmortem for any signs of disruption in acetylcholine levels.

The memory test used in the study involved allowing the rats to explore new objects in different locations. Then, a few days later, the researchers reintroduced the rats to an almost identical scene, except for the addition of a new object. Rats that had been fed a diet of junk food showed signs of being unable to remember which objects they had seen before and where. Meanwhile, members of the control group were more familiar with their surroundings.

“Acetylcholine signaling is a mechanism that helps them encode and remember these events, analogous to ‘episodic memory’ in humans that allows us to remember events from our past,” explains Hayes. “This signal does not appear to occur in animals that grew up on a fatty and sugary diet.”

Professor Kanoski points out that adolescence is a very sensitive time for the brain, as important changes occur in development.

“I don’t know how to say this without sounding like Cassandra and pessimism,” he adds, “but unfortunately, some things that may be more easily reversible in adulthood are less so when they occur during childhood. ‘childhood.”

In conclusion, the research team adds that there is some hope for intervention. Professor Kanoski says that in another series of studies, the study authors examined whether memory damage in rats raised on a junk food diet could be reversible with drugs that induce the release of acetylcholine. They used two drugs for this purpose: PNU-282987 And carbacholfinding that with these treatments administered directly to the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for memory often disrupted by Alzheimer’s disease, the rats’ memory capacity returned.

However, without this special medical intervention, Professor Kanoski emphasizes that further research is needed to understand how memory problems due to a junk food diet during adolescence may be reversible.

The full study can be viewed here, published in Brain behavior and immunity.

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Gn Health

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