High-Fat Diets' Impact on the Brain from Cradle to Grave
Impact of High-Fat Diets on the Brain
Somewhere between those times when we are little more than a gleam in Mom’s eye to those times when we bounce our grandchildren on a knee, high-fat diets cut a u-turn from oh-no-you-don’t to sounds-good-to-me.
On the one hand, new research from Johns Hopkins University suggests that eating a high-fat diet while pregnant or breastfeeding can have adverse effects on the brain function and behavior of children.
Separate research from the University of Copenhagen suggests that mice who are placed on a high-fat diet postpone signs of brain aging.
Let’s start with the gleam in Mom’s eye.
Bring In the Rats
It has been discovered that rat offspring born of mothers who were on a high-fat diet during pregnancy have a preference for high-fat foods, weigh more, have impaired glucose tolerance, and are less responsive to an appetite suppressant.
Twenty-four pregnant subjects were divided into two groups of twelve each. One group was fed standard chow and the other a high-fat diet. The behavior of the animals was then evaluated through testing.
The offspring of the mothers who had received a high fat diet weighed more, ate more, and had a preference for high-fat food. They were also less active, less responsive to amphetamine, and had compromised subject recognition. The male offspring of these mothers showed altered gene expression in the hippocampus that was maintained through adulthood.
A second study was conducted to determine the effects of maternal obesity on children during their first six years. The findings supported the findings found in animal subjects. Males born to obese mothers had an average of 4 to 5 percent more body fat when compared to boys of normal weight or overweight mothers. This difference did not apply to females.
As we grow older, our brains lose some intellectual capacity and the risk for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease increases. A recent Danish study suggests that brain aging can be delayed in mice if they are put on a high-fat diet.
Humans age when the DNA repair system no longer functions. Mice having a defect in the DNA repair system were studied because this same defect in humans is responsible for Cockayne syndrome, a premature aging of children that causes death between the ages of 10 and 12. The Danish study shows that mice on a high-fat diet can postpone aging processes such as impaired hearing and weight loss. The study implications are not only positive for children with Cockayne syndrome but for people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well.
In children with Cockayne syndrome, it has been discovered that the cell-repair mechanism is constantly active and causes cells to age at an accelerated rate. Fatty acids found in coconut oil help to resolve this because they give the brain extra fuel to help repair the damage. These findings imply that those patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease might benefit from this knowledge in the long-term.
The research was headed by the Center for Healthy Aging, University of Copenhagen and the National Institute of Health.
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