Can Eating Fast Food Cause Brain Damage?

By: Saira Malhotra

Just the shear visual of a nice juicy burger with a soft bun, condiments and a side of crispy and salty fries will make anyone cave in. However, being the poster children of junk food, we are aware that surrendering to the craving comes with a price tag. We eat it (and some more frequently than others) and know that it will show up on our waistline, in our arteries, in our alertness. However, recent studies now indicate that it impacts our brain too.

This week, published in theweek.com, is an article based on a recent study by The Journal of Clinical Investigation regarding the correlation between junk food and the brain. When performed on rodents, the experiment indicated that fatty foods damaged the hypothalamus - the area of the brain that produces hormones controlling thirst, sleep, moods and hunger.

"This is radically different [thinking] - that diets can actually re-program the structure of the brain," said Dr. Steven R. Smith, involved in the study. The study showed that after one day of eating fatty food, food comparable to what the average American eats, the hypothalamus experienced inflammation. After a few days, the inflammation subsided only to return a few weeks later.

Dr. Michael Schwartz, a lead on the study, considered this finding to shed light on why it is hard to lose weight and easy to regain it. The rodents that consumed a high fat diet were subject to a 25% loss of cells that regulate appetite and fat control. The findings suggest that a healthy and slim person's brain is able to effectively determine how much food should be stored as fat. By contrast, an obese person's brain becomes programmed to keep them at that weight.

While there are differences between rodent and human brains, other studies have also linked junk food to brain shrinkage often leading to Alzheimer's. If fatty food can clog arteries and weaken the heart, researchers argue that it is more than probable that there is damage to the brain too.

Photo: Jaryl Cabuco | Fitted.Life

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