Fatty foods attack children’s brains – paving the way to depression, learning difficulties, and Alzheimer’s, study reveals.
Fatty foods attack children’s brains – paving the way to depression, learning difficulties, and Alzheimer’s, study reveals
Functioning brains need a protein called reelin to aid memory and behavioral flexibility
But a new study has found fast food depletes reelin levels in teenagers
It means their brains move slower, raising their risk of mental illness
Low reelin levels are also a hallmark of higher Alzheimer’s disease risk
By Mia De Graaf For Dailymail.com
Published: 17:10 EST, 15 November 2016 | Updated: 11:04 EST, 16 November 2016
Fatty foods stunt the development of children’s brains, drastically raising their risk of developing a mental illness or Alzheimer’s, a new study warns.
According to a study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry on Tuesday, excessive amounts of sugar and fat deplete the levels of a key protein called reelin, which is needed to help neurons connect.
Without reelin, brain functions slow down, hampering behavioral flexibility and memory.
Alarmingly, low reelin levels are linked to a drastically high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in later life.
‘These changes from a young age onwards are more the result of the fatty foods themselves, and the impact they have on young brains, rather than arising from the mere fact of being obese,’ one of the researchers Urs Meyer, from ETH Zurich, warns.
Dr Meyer tested the theory on mice with fellow researcher Pascale Chavis from France’s INMED Institute.
To their surprise, they started seeing slower brain function as early as four weeks after starting the high-fat, high-sugar diet.
Most strikingly, damage to the brain became evident long before the mice started gaining weight.
And the damage was worse for adolescent mice, as opposed to adult mice.
The study focused on the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with decision making, personality expression, controlling social behavior, and planning complex actions.
Unlike the rest of the brain, it is not fully developed until early adulthood, the researchers explain, meaning it is highly sensitive to trauma, stress, and drug abuse.
In a healthy functioning brain, neurons produce a protein called reelin.
Reelin regulates synapses (the connections between neurons), allowing them to become stronger or weaker when needed.
However, the authors found mice on a fast food diet produced less reelin, hampering the plasticity of synapses and general cognitive function.
The researchers warn this research is crucial, since adolescence is a time when teenagers’ appetites go through the roof, and they tend to have more freedom to eat what they want.