Garbage in, garbage out: how junk food can damage your brain, and what you can do about it.
Decades of research show that eating junk food is harmful for a variety of reasons. Not only can junk food contribute to weight gain and disease, but it can also have negative effects on your brain.
You probably already know that a diet high in sugar and the wrong kinds of saturated fats leads to inflammation and high triglyceride levels in the blood. But what do inflammation and triglycerides have to do with the brain?
Normally when you finish eating, the body produces hormones that, among other things, stimulate and protect neurons. These hormones are blocked from entering the brain by inflammatory chemicals and triglycerides, which also suppress molecules that stimulate a process called neurogenesis – the birth of new neurons. So, the existing neurons are left vulnerable to damage, and the process that builds new neurons is suppressed. Over time, this can lead to visible changes in the structure of the brain. Some researchers believe this could be a root cause of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers.
A team of scientists from the University of Liverpool’s Institute for Aging and Chronic Disease analyzed the results of 185 studies, and their review published in the British Journal of Nutrition says Omega-3 fatty acids can prevent and even reverse junk food’s damage to the brain.
Omega-3 fatty acids do this by counteracting inflammatory chemicals, and suppressing triglycerides––thereby allowing the brain to accept the hormones that tell it to grow and protect nerve cells.
Dr. Lucy Pickavance, one of the review’s authors, says fish oils, such as Omega XL®, “…may take the brakes off the detrimental effects of some of the processes triggered in the brain by high-fat diets…and including more oily fish or fish oil supplements in our diets could certainly be a positive step forward for those wanting to improve their general health.”