We are what we eat and this claim has been proven by several scientific studies. But to what extent and how quickly can a diet high in refined foods and rich in fats and sugars cause damage to our health? One month seems to be enough for a diet of this type to induce neuroinflammation and even reduce memory in elderly and predisposed subjects. This is what emerges from a very recent scientific research published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity by a team from Ohio State University (Butler et al, Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 2021).
Processed foods, cross and delight
Ready and frozen pizzas, canned pasta or soups, so tasty and enriched with fats and sugars to make them even more appetizing, refined carbohydrates and sweet. In short, the variety of processed foods is truly vast to meet all needs. Unfortunately, the speed of preparation and the rich taste have a counterbalance, and that is certainly not a beneficial effect on health. Precisely to understand what happens in the brain following a diet rich in processed foods, American researchers at Ohio State University have developed the study we are talking about today.
Refined foods increase neuroinflammation
The research was carried out in the laboratory on a population of rats of all ages. After a month of a diet high in refined foods, sugars and fats, all the animals were gaining weight. Not only that, neuroinflammation was also increased in older rats with evident signs of memory loss. Today we know that neuroinflammation is the antechamber of Alzheimer's. Therefore, the results of the study speak for themselves. An unhealthy diet based mainly on highly processed foods, such as the Western-style diet, has consequences on brain health even in the short term, increasing inflammation and worsening cognitive function.
The beneficial effect of omega 3 fatty acids
But that's not all. The researchers were able to note, in fact, that these harmful effects on the brain induced by a diet high in processed foods could be canceled by supplementing the diet with omega 3 fatty acids of the DHA type. DHA is found mainly in fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, tuna and herring, in some fortified foods such as milk and yogurt, and in supplements, such as krill oil pearls.
Conclusions and warnings
Be careful though. As the authors of the study also point out, you should not think that you can follow a diet that is rich in sugars, fats and refined carbohydrates as long as you add DHA supplements. In fact, a diet of this type opens the way, in the long term, to various diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular problems. In addition to the fact that it is not known, for humans, the dosage at which to take DHA to nullify the harmful effects of the pro-inflammatory diet.