During a typical holiday get- together, people tend to consume a lot of calories and fat, but this overindulgence does not only take its toll on the waistline, but it also could wreak havoc on the brain.
A study suggests that synapses (connections that aid communication between neurons or brain cells) in the brain could be destroyed by a high- fat diet, which may impair memory and learning. But luckily, the brain- damaging effects of a high- fat diet can be counteracted by switching to a low- fat diet for 2 months.
Obesity has become a major health concern and high fat diets are a main contributor; obese people are at greater risk of type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer and heart disease. Besides weight gain, there is increasing evidence that a high- fight diet can damage the brain. A team of researchers compared the brain effects of high and low fat diets in mice.
The mice were fed diets that represent a fast- food diet versus a healthy diet in humans. The researchers measured the levels of synaptic markers in the hippocampi of the mice. By 12 weeks after initiation, the mice fed a high- fat diet became obese and had reduced levels of synaptic markers, indicating the destruction of synapses in the hippocampus.
Microglia help rid the brain of harmful agents, protecting and strengthening neurons, but too much fat in the body impairs this process. Normally, microglia are constantly moving around in the brain, but they stop moving in obesity. Basically, they just sit there and start eating synapses. Next, the team switched half the mice to low- fat diet to see how this will affect their brains.
Within 2 months, the weight of these mice returned to normal, but the mice that remained on the high- fat diet continued to lose more synapses and gain more weight. Synaptic loss was restored among those that swapped to low- fat diet, and this suggests that neurological damage caused by high- fat diet can be offset by switching to a low- fat diet.