Highly processed foods may lead to memory loss in older brain

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In a new study from The Ohio State University, researchers found four weeks on a diet of highly processed food led to a strong inflammatory response in the brains of aging rats that was accompanied by behavioral signs of memory loss.

They also found that supplementing the processed diet with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA prevented memory problems and reduced the inflammatory effects almost entirely in the older brain.

In the study, the team fed rats with a diet that mimicked ready-to-eat human foods that are often packaged for long shelf lives, such as potato chips and other snacks, frozen entrees like pasta dishes and pizzas, and deli meats containing preservatives.

They found highly processed diets are also linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

This suggests older consumers might want to scale back on convenience foods and add foods rich in DHA, such as salmon, to their diets, especially considering harm to the aged brain in this study was evident in only four weeks.

These findings indicate that consumption of a processed diet can produce strong 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 people can limit processed foods in their diets and increase consumption of foods that are rich in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA to either prevent or slow that progression.

DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is an omega-3 fatty acid that is present along with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in fish and other seafood.

Among DHA’s multiple functions in the brain is a role in fending off an inflammatory response—this is the first study of its ability to act against brain inflammation brought on by a processed diet.

The results also showed that DHA supplementation of the processed-food diets consumed by the older rats effectively prevented the elevated inflammatory response in the brain as well as behavioral signs of memory loss.

If you care about dementia and your health, please read studies about this mental issue could predict dementia years before other symptoms and findings of this kind of work could increase your dementia risk by more than 50%.

For more information about dementia prevention and treatment, please see recent studies about a new way to detect early dementia in time for intervention and results showing that a new way to early detect and distinct different forms of dementia.

The study is published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. One author of the study is Ruth Barrientos.

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