Research by scientists at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia suggests that replacing a “healthy” diet with unhealthy “cheat” meals can not only lead to weight gain, but also affect brain function and health. May have to ,
Mice that ate primarily a healthy diet but occasionally indulged in foods high in sugar and saturated fat showed significant impairments in cognitive ability, particularly on tests of spatial memory, and negative changes in gut flora. Used to experience
UNSW neuroscientist Margaret Morris explains, “We think this type of research is essential for us to consider how best to maintain our brain health into old age.”
The study expands on the team’s previous research, which found an association between poor diet and impairment in long-term spatial memory, providing new insight into the effects of “diet cycling”.
Sometimes a compromise between healthy and unhealthy eating is considered, but a change in nutrition may come with a price.
In each of three separate experiments, a control group of 12 mice was fed standard mouse chow and compared to three experimental groups of 12 mice that were also fed high-fat and high-sugar processed foods.
Experimental groups consumed the same amount of unhealthy food, either continuously or distributed in “cycles” of varying lengths.
Before and after the diet cycling period, the researchers tested the mice’s short-term memory, analyzed the microbiota in their feces, weighed them before and after, and recorded the amount of each type of food they ate.
Mice that ate poorly for any length of time had less diverse gut microbiota, with more bacteria associated with obesity and fewer strains of beneficial bacteria associated with weight control. These changes worsened with prolonged exposure to an unhealthy diet.
Cognitive decline also became more severe over time, with mice that had been on an unhealthy diet for several days performing worst on memory tests that required recall.