(Natural News) The Western diet is notorious for containing sinful amounts of fat, sugar and little to no nutrients. This unhealthy diet is also linked to a greater risk of developing serious health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Yet despite the many reasons to forego this type of diet, many Americans continue to binge on greasy, fatty food.
Now, a study published in Royal Society Open Science warns that if you’re an avid consumer of the Western diet, it’s time to reevaluate your eating habits. On top of the many health risks it already poses, the Western diet can also negatively affect brain function.
The Western diet, also known as the Western pattern diet (WPD) or Standard American Diet, includes foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar. Unlike healthy diets full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, natural fats and whole grains, the Western diet is made up primarily of red meat and processed food products.
Since the diet includes nutrient-deficient foods, it is often associated with a greater risk of health problems like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
Put the greasy burger down
For the study, researchers from Macquarie University observed 110 healthy participants. The lean students were between the ages 20 and 23, and they generally followed a balanced diet.
Half of the volunteers were randomly assigned to a control group that was instructed to follow their normal diet for one week. The rest of the volunteers were put on a high-energy WPD, which included fast food and Belgian waffles.
At the beginning and end of the week, the participants ate breakfast in the lab.
Before and after the meal, they were asked to take word memory tests. The volunteers also rated different kinds of high-sugar foods, like sugary cereals, based on how much they wanted and and how much they liked the foods after eating them.
Richard Stevenson, a professor of Psychology at Macquarie University, explained that the more people on the WPD group who, when full, considered the palatable food desirable, “the more impaired they were on the test of hippocampal function.”
Stevenson noted that governments will eventually be forced to set restrictions on processed food, like they did to discourage people from smoking. He added that the study findings should alarm everyone since processed foods can negatively impact cognitive function that affects appetite. The Western diet also promotes overeating in otherwise young and healthy individuals.
Following the Western diet long-term can lead to obesity and diabetes, two health conditions that are associated with declining brain performance and risk of developing dementia.
Rachel Batterham, professor of Obesity, Diabetes and Endocrinology at University College London, who wasn’t involved in the study, noted that it was one of the first to assess whether the Western diet negatively affects memory and appetite control in humans.
Batterham said that the unhealthy diet’s effect on brain function is a serious matter, especially considering the current food climate.
The study provides data that supports the Western diet’s adverse effects on both memory and appetite control after only one week of an energy-dense diet. The findings also point to a possible link between poor diet and impairment of the hippocampus, an important region of the brain that’s associated with both memory and appetite. (Related: The Western diet can impair memory function.)
Continued study will help researchers to better understand the mechanisms at work via more sophisticated neuroimaging methods.
Don’t think twice about improving your eating habits. Start limiting your consumption of junk food and following a balanced diet, as well as exercise regularly to improve both your physical and mental health.