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Science has proof of how bad diet can lead to bad memory

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Strong immunity building is a drawing-room conversation in every house, especially after Covid. Despite an increased interest in the concept of immunity, most of the time we fail to put a stop to our cravings and distractions.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia found that “consuming certain unhealthy food, high in fat and sugar can have negative long-term effects on spatial memory.” The study was being conducted on the cognitive function of rats that alternated between a cafeteria diet of fattening and sugary foods like pies, cake, biscuits, and chips, and a healthy diet. During the testing period of six weeks, rats who were given junk food at intervals of three, five, or seven days, separated by a healthy chow diet, resulted in deteriorated recognition of their spatial memory, as per their pattern of access to junk food—the more days in a row they ate junk food, the worse their memory got.

The first round of testing of spatial memory of rats is conducted by familiarising them with two objects and then repositioning one of them and monitoring the rats’ ability to discern a change in the environment. The main objective is to let the rats explore the object that has been moved. It was found that rats who were fed at a gap of three days had their spatial memory exacerbated compared to the pattern of five or seven days.

Professor Margaret Morris of UNSW School of Medical Science, and senior author of the study says, “Anything over three days a week of eating badly impacted memory in these animals. We all know that a healthy diet with minimal junk foods is good for our overall health and performance, but this paper shows that it is critical for optimal brain function as well.”

Also read: Don’t trust the ‘superfood’ label. Here are five common foods to boost your health

The regular functionality of the human brain too has been much affected in all ways by cravings and ‘distractions’ caused by ultra-processed food. As per a study published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, eating healthy food is not as distracting as eating fatty or sugary food, such as doughnuts and pizzas. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the US created complicated computer tasks and participants were assigned a scenario in which food was irrelevant, and they were instructed to find the answers as fast as possible. The pictures flashed on the screen at the periphery as participants worked diligently, visible for just 125 milliseconds, which is too fast for participants to fully realise what they are looking at. The round includes images of high-fat, high-calorie foods, healthy foods, or objects that were not foods.

An astounding point noted by researchers was that having all the pictures distract people from the task is one thing, but items like doughnuts, potato chips, cheese, and candy were twice as distracting. Researchers said that pictures of healthy foods like carrots, apples, and salads did not distract people as much as images of non-foods such as bicycles, lava lamps, and footballs. The same team recreated another experiment with different groups of participants who ate two fun-sized candy bars before starting the computer work. Lastly, researchers found that after eating chocolate, people weren’t distracted by the images of high-fat, high-calorie foods any more than they were by images of healthy foods.
Howard Egeth, Professor at Johns Hopkins University said, “We wanted to see if pictures of food, particularly high-fat, high-calorie food, would be a distraction for people engaged in a complicated task.”

The connection between diet and food, as per these studies, highlight how it is crucial to examine the food we take. If we wish to live healthier lives, we need to take a long, hard look at cravings, and what triggers them, and figure out a sustainable diet for ourselves. Denying favorite foods is not the solution, moderation is.

The author is a student at the International Institute Of Mass Media (IIMM), New Delhi. Views are personal

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