Junk Food May Be Stressing You Out, Study Finds

There are already reasons enough to avoid processed junk food high in fats and sugar, but a new study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University found that high-fat and high-sugar diets might also be doing great harm to cognitive function in addition to the damage they cause to physical health.

Published in the journal Neuroscience, the study looked at the mental performance of mice who consumed varying levels of fat and sugar. The researchers also looked at gut bacteria in the mice.

“Bacteria can release compounds that act as neurotransmitters, stimulate sensory nerves or the immune system, and affect a wide range of biological functions,” Kathy Magnusson, a professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine and principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute, said in a statement.

According to the researchers, both the mental and physical performances of the mice who were eating the highest fat and sugar diets were compromised. “One of the most disparate physiological factors within the groups of mice, and the suspected reason for the decreased brain function, was gut bacteria,” reports TakePart.

While we now know that high-fat and high-sugar foods can lead to weight gain and diet-related illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, science is just beginning to understand the relationship gut bacteria play in our overall health, particularly mental health. Recent research has linked fermented foods that contain naturally occurring probiotics to lower levels of anxiety and other mental health benefits. And this new study shows how gut bacteria may be negatively impacted by a diet high in refined sugars and processed fats.

“This work suggests that fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and that’s one of the reasons those foods aren’t good for you.” Magnusson said. “It’s not just the food that could be influencing your brain but an interaction between the food and microbial changes.”

image via Maurice Svay 

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