Study Finds that Obesity may be a Disease of the Brain

Naturally, food-related memories surface when a person is hungry and are temporarily forgotten again after eating, so that thoughts of food are set aside once a person is not hungry anymore. As published on Science Daily, a study by researchers at Macquarie University found that the ability to ‘block out’ memories of food is connected to excessive food intake through the irregularities in the abilities of the hippocampus.

Prior animal studies have revealed that a high-fat, high-sugar, low fruit, low vegetable, and low fiber diet impairs the capacity of the hippocampus to inhibit memories – including that of food – regardless of whether or not a person is hungry.

In the study presented to the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the Macquarie University researchers discussed a research on healthy young people, with a portion of the participants used to eating a Western-style diet. The participants were given learning and memory tests that depend on the use of the hippocampus and were told to rate their liking and wanting of usual snack foods before and after eating a satisfying meal.

The research revealed that participants used to a Western-type diet found it more difficult to learn and remember as compared to their counterparts who were used to eating a healthier diet – the less healthy participants also showed that their wanting of the snacks did not change much before or after eating, meaning that they wanted the snacks more often than their healthier counterparts.

PhD student leading the study Tuki Attuquayefio stated, “This effect was strongly related to their performance on the learning and memory task, suggesting that there is a link between the two via the hippocampus.” The study concludes that young people who regularly consume high-fat, high-sugar food in their diet may lead to a compromised function of the hippocampus, leading not only to a predisposition to obesity but also to a decline in cognitive ability.

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