Consuming highly processed foods may negatively impact cognitive health

Research led by Ohio State University involved experimenting on the dietary patterns of rodents.


According to the study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, rodents who led a diet of highly processed foods experienced an inflammatory response in their brains, resulting in indications of cognitive decline.

Such diets consumed included refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and a lack of fiber.

“We showed that consumption of a processed foods diet (PD), enriched with refined carbohydrate sources, for 28 days impaired hippocampal- and amygdalar-dependent memory function in aged (24 months), but not young (3 months) F344 × BN rats,” according to the findings.

“Importantly, we also showed that when the same PD is supplemented with the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid DHA, these memory deficits and inflammatory gene expression changes were ameliorated in aged rats, thus providing the first evidence that DHA supplementation can protect against memory deficits and inflammatory gene expression in aged rats fed a processed foods diet.”

The study lasted for a duration of four weeks. The highly processed foods administered only led to neuroinflammation and cognitive problems among older rodents, but not the younger adult rodents.

“These findings indicate that consumption of a processed diet can produce significant and abrupt memory deficits—and in the aging population, rapid memory decline has a greater likelihood of progressing into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease,” the authors indicated in their findings. “By being aware of this, maybe we can limit processed foods in our diets and increase consumption of foods that are rich in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA to either prevent or slow that progression.”

“Together, our data provide novel insights regarding diet-brain interactions by showing that PD consumption impairs cognitive function likely through a neuroimmune mechanism and that dietary DHA can ameliorate this phenomenon.”

Image courtesy of monkeybusinessimages
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