The Food vs. Brain Relationship
"Your choices have a direct, and long-lasting effect on the most powerful organ in your body."
We all know by now the direct correlation between the type of food you eat and how it shapes your physical body. Just a couple of donuts can feel like they’re covering up all that core work you did this week. We’ve been there too.
Taking this a step further, it’s the relationship between the food we eat and how it affects our brain that is especially intriguing to us. The science behind it has long been clouded, but those clouds are beginning open, and sunshine is peaking through.
Recent research has made its way to NPR that reveals tests and studies on the hippocampus, the part of the brain that’s heavily involved in memory, to illustrate that subjects with a poor “Western diet” (high saturated fats and sugars) perform worse in memory tasks.
Psychologist Terry Davidson, and director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience at American University in Washington, D.C., ran tests on rats with hippocampal damage, and found they would crave and grab unhealthful food more often than the control group of rats. Another 2015 study in the Journal of Pediatrics concludes that obese children performed worse compared to children who weren’t overweight on tests related to the hippocampus.
Sometimes, the effect of the poor diet may not even show in the results, but instead within the process. This should speak to parents, as Davidson continues, “Let’s say I had a kid and I gave him a high-fat diet and he showed hippocampal dysfunction. That kid may not do worse in school.” The kid may “have a tougher go of it,” however, because the cognitive processes are impaired. Imagine this snowballing, little by little, as the child grows up with no healthy lifestyle changes.
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Davidson calls attention to the fact that hippocampal damage “makes it more difficult for us to stop eating that diet,” which is an alarming part of the equation that points to a downward spiral. The diet of obese people degrades the memory, which makes it easier to succumb to cravings for more food.
So, what can we do to step in and curb the memory damage of a poor diet, especially in our youth? How can we prevent people from becoming obese in the first place? The link between food and the brain should now be another motivating factor.
It’s tough to integrate a healthier diet overnight, but that’s certainly a great long-term goal to instill little by little. One tip that’s already backed by research is to not watch TV while you eat. I know that eliminates the multi-tasking you may crave just as much, but the research shows that for lunch, for instance, if you watch TV while you eat, you’ll not only eat more, but also be more likely to get hungry into the evening and eat more at dinner.
Breaking any cycle, especially one that’s likely become so self-conscious like the food we eat, is going to take some time and discipline. Davidson once again provides the clear logic and the serious takeaway, “It’s surprising to me that people would question that obesity would have a negative effect on the brain, because it has a negative effect on so many other bodily systems. [Why would] the brain would be spared?”
For us, we hope this seemingly obvious link between the food and your brain was as alarming to you to just simply be more mindful of what we put into our bodies.
Your choices have a direct, and long-lasting effect on the most powerful organ in your body.
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