Fish Oil Reduces Ill Effects of Junk Food on the Brain
If the old adage “you are what you eat” is true, then plenty of Americans are in trouble. What they’re eating, more often than not, is sugar, fat and simple carbohydrates. In other words: junk food. Junk food is highly processed, calorie-dense and nutrient poor. Think greasy burgers and piles of fries, washed down with sugary sodas.
Of course, a steady diet of junk food has been linked to a variety of health problems, including obesity and the metabolic syndrome—a constellation of health problems that may include high blood pressure, out-of-whack blood lipids (such as high cholesterol and triglycerides, for example) and a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Now you can add changes in the brain to the list. People who consume a steady diet of junk food also suffer from changes in the “structural plasticity” of the brain, and reduced neurogenesis. While healthy people constantly grow new brain cells, and make new connections between nerves (neurogenesis), the process is noticeably hampered in the brains of junk food eaters. Scientists once thought this dynamic sort of brain remodeling only takes place in growing embryos, but we now know that even healthy adults undergo active neurogenesis. It’s linked to the ability to learn and think clearly.
But there’s hope. Recently, British researchers found that supplemental fish oil—which is rich in the important brain nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids—can protect against the damage done by poor diet. Investigators looked at data from 185 studies to conclude that fish oil helps prevent diet-related changes in the brain. Fish oil works, in part, by suppressing inflammation and reducing levels of blood lipids called triglycerides.
Yon MA, Mauger SL, Pickavance LC. Relationships between dietary macronutrients and adult neurogenesis in the regulation of energy metabolism. Br J Nutr. 2013 May;109(9):1573-89. doi: 10.1017/S000711451200579X. Epub 2013 Feb 25.