The Foods That Can Quickly Lead To Memory Loss

The rapid damage done to the brain by eating these foods is surprising.

The rapid damage done to the brain by eating these foods is surprising.

Eating a diet of highly processed foods could seriously damage your memory, a study on rats suggests.

A diet high in foods like soft drinks, chips, candy, ice-cream and packaged soups is linked to neuroinflammation and cognitive problems.

However, the omega-3 fatty acid DHA almost completely reverses this effect — even in older rats.

Foods high in DHA include salmon, trout, oysters, cod and canned tuna.

The rapid damage done to the brain by eating highly processed foods is surprising, said Dr Ruth Barrientos, study co-author:

“The fact we’re seeing these effects so quickly is a little bit alarming.

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.

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.”

The study on rats fed some of them a standard diet or one that mimicked the highly processed diet that many people around the world now consume.

A third group were given the highly processed diet along with DHA supplementation.

Eating a highly processed diet caused inflammation in critical areas of the brain, including the hippocampus and amygdala.

Dr Barrientos explained:

“The amygdala in humans has been implicated in memories associated with emotional—fear and anxiety-producing—events.

If this region of the brain is dysfunctional, cues that predict danger may be missed and could lead to bad decisions.”

The hippocampus, meanwhile is vital for memory.

Rats fed the highly processed diet subsequently demonstrated memory loss, unless they were given DHA supplementation.

Prevention is better than cure, though, and highly processed foods are unhealthy in many ways, warned Dr Barrientos:

“These are the types of diets that are advertised as being low in fat, but they’re highly processed.

They have no fiber and have refined carbohydrates that are also known as low-quality carbohydrates.

Folks who are used to looking at nutritional information need to pay attention to the fiber and quality of carbohydrates.

This study really shows those things are important.”

The study was published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (Butler et al., 2021).

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

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