New Research Suggests That A Junk Food-Filled Diet During Adolescence May Lead To Long-Term Memory Impairment That Lasts Into Adulthood

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When it comes to parents wanting to protect their kids, most try to shield their teens from things like drugs and alcohol. But, in light of new research, some may want to add junk food to their radar.

Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) recently conducted a study using rodents and demonstrated that rats fed a high-fat and high-sugar diet during their teen years exhibited long-term memory deficits that lasted into adulthood.

These findings suggest that a diet high in junk food could impair a teenager’s memory capabilities for an extended period of time.

“What we see not just in this paper, but in some of our other recent work, is that if these rats grew up on this junk food diet, then they have these memory impairments that don’t go away,” said Scott Kanoski, a biological sciences professor at USC.

“If you just simply put them on a healthy diet, these effects unfortunately last well into adulthood.”

Professor Kanoski and Anna Hayes, a postdoctoral research fellow, worked together while creating this study and considered previous findings that linked a poor diet to Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals with Alzheimer’s often have reduced levels of acetylcholine, a crucial neurotransmitter involved in memory, learning, attention, and involuntary muscle movements.

This prompted the team to question how a fat-rich and sugar-filled Western diet might affect younger individuals, particularly during the crucial brain development phase of adolescence.

So, the researchers monitored how this diet impacted acetylcholine levels in rodents and subjected the rats to memory tests. This yielded valuable insights into the association between diet and memory.

Afterward, they monitored acetylcholine levels in a group of rats on a fatty and sugary diet in addition to a control group on a standard diet. The team examined how the rats’ brains responded to tasks designed to assess their memory. Then, they conducted post-mortem analyses of the rats’ brains to check for any disturbances in acetylcholine levels.

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