It’s impossible to avoid them! For decades we have been surrounded by sweet and fatty foods. And the body has not been dealing well with these eating habits. But what about the brain? Do our mental health, our moods, and our brain abilities suffer from the wrong kind of nutrition? well, This is a recent field of research.
“We know that fast food is making us fat, but science is telling us now that it may also be shrinking our brains,” confirms Dr. Felice Jacka. In addition to that, “diets high in fat and sugar, in the long term, lead to changes in a part of the brain involved in memory ” said Dr. Morris. In short, our brain is affected by what’s on our plates.
All goes back to our very first meals, even before birth. The brain is built-up during pregnancy so its functions abilities later are related to how it has been nourished by the expectant mothers. It’s already known that poor nutrition has a number of consequences for baby health. Now, scientists have moved to a new area of study. In Melbourne, Australia, they are looking at the repercussions of nutrition on brain function.
Felice Jacka, a professor at the University of Melbourne, had led an examination of the behavior of babies after following the eating habits of 23.000 pregnant women, measuring their intake of junk, processed foods, their intake of healthful foods, food rich in nutrients, and lots of fiber. Keeping in mind a lot of factors such as education of the mother, income, parenting, practice, and the mother’s mental health.
It turns out that mothers who follow an unhealthy diet, their children had behaviors such as aggression, anger, and tantrums. Thus, the mother’s diet impacted the mental development of the baby as the study confirms. Besides, a large Norwegian study had shown that what children eat independently of their mother’s diet is important as well.
If children were eating too much junk food, they had more of these anger and aggressive behaviors. In addition to sadness, anxiety, worry, and nightmares. This study had been proven by studies in Spain, the Netherlands, and Canada. Excess fat and sugar are now in the sights of scientists working on the brain, excess, and deficiencies.
It’s known that junk food is often low on essential nutrients, so it leaves the body and especially the nerves cells lacking.
That’s the object of a study which had taken place in the University of Bordeaux in France. Scientists studied the consequences of dietary deficiencies on the mouse brain. The experiment is used to measure anxiety. What happened is that animals deprived of Omega-3, fatty acids during its development stayed in dark places, showing stress and anxiety.
This behavior explains that without Omega-3 and fatty acids the brain does not develop and function normally. It’s vital to ingest it because of the gray matter of the brain which is 90% of it. It can’t produce itself. It has to come from the diet.
We can find Omega-3 in oily fish, organ meat, vegetables, seeds, oils, and nuts…etc. Yet, these foods have become scarce with the cuisine of the industrialized countries. The amount of Omega-3 that enters the brain is crucial for making brain cells more efficient since it helps to improve their electrical properties. Any lack of it can awaken its functions.
“We should increase our intake of Omega-3, especially in the prenatal development period. When Omega-3 is incorporated in large quantities into the brain, in adolescence, this particular time of change of diet and during aging where the incorporation of Omega-3 into the Brain tends to be less effective” advises Dr. Sophie Layes.
For keeping our brain running well and fast, we must avoid deficiencies. So, good nutrients and a diversified diet should be available. If we keep eating the same, poor diet every day, what is going to happen to neurons?
This problem is affecting the wild living European hamster which thrived for a long time in the plains of France’s Alsace region. At the same time what has been seen is an increase in the agriculture area where corn is cultivated. Professor Caroline Habold, after noticing an increase of hamster in those agriculture areas, had taken the initiative to go for a laboratory experiment feeding hamster exclusively corn during breeding.
The experiment has shown behavioral disturbances in females, which resulted in a hyper-aggression and hypersensitivity. Surprisingly, the females had eaten their baby the first day after giving birth. this behavior was observed in 80% of females, and it can be explained by a dietary deficiency.
The lack of vitamin B3 is the origin of this abnormal behavior. When hamsters were supplemented with their corn-based diet and vitamin B3. They exhibited normal behavior. They nurse their baby and act normally. Thus, an unbalanced diet had caused aggressive behavior in animals. May it cause the same to humans?
A study in a prison in the Netherlands lead by Ap Zaalberg, a clinical psychologist and political advisor, found that the behavior of inmates who were given vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids supplement showed incidents of violence less than others. That was measured in two different ways, first by asking the inmates how aggressive they were, secondly, by asking the supervisors for their points of view on that issue.
Moreover, solitary confinement had fallen dramatically. It’s clear that what we eat impacts our moods, and it has the power to push us toward certain behaviors, but could the food we eat also influence our decisions?
Professor Song- Park had proven it. Her work at the institute of psychology at the University of Liebeck, Germany reveals the mechanism by which food influences our thoughts. The experience showed that some of our decisions depend on what we eat.
A rich diet in protein seems to help the brain to be more tolerant towards unfair offers, whilst a rich diet in high- carbohydrates leads to be less tolerant. Biologically talking, Amino acids such as dopamine and a molecule which ensure communication between neurons involved motivation, risk-taking, and tyrosine are the key to brain function.
What we eat can subtly alter the chemistry of the Brain. ” Food has enormous power, modifying and shaping mankind,” Said professor Soyong-park. Using it to promote our well- being and optimizing our mental health is the aim. But what does happen for the Brain when we opt for junk food instead of healthy food?
That’s the purpose of an experiment done in Sydney, Australia on a range of western food. Professor Margaret Morris had fed rats high fat, and sugar diet, examining their behavior and memory. As a consequence, other than obesity, animals eating junk food diets were less able to recognize and remember. The rats spent more time examining and remembering.
The diet caused an impairment of spatial memory. This kind of food affects badly the hippocampus, a small region nestled in the center of memory, essential for learning and the consolidation of memory. Furthermore, professor Morris has a hypothesis, namely, eating too much junk food and sugar trigger an inflammatory reaction that spreads to the neurons. This inflammation is propagated in the fatty tissues, then it circulates the whole body.
Neurons were thought to be spared this effect behind the protective blood-brain barrier. This is no longer the case, considering that the blood-brain barrier can be also impaired by the diet. An experiment done by Sophie Layes on overfed mice showed that microbial cells begin to devour alive neurons in excessive numbers. Therefore, destroying the neural networks and neurons that should be functional. Thus affecting significantly the functioning of the Brain.
Dr. Xavier Fiormonti, suspects that glucose has the ability to modify the activity of the entire brain area that controls emotions and pleasure by recording the electrical activity of neurons when raising the glucose concentration in it, the activity increases. This leads us to sugar, which is considered today a sort of addiction. Serge Ahmed, had provided proof to this claim by a very simple experiment, which indicated that the rat had chosen a sweet drink over cocaine in four times.
This makes clear that sugar has more addictive potential than what we had imagined. An experience connected with the influence of sweet food on the human brain is being done in Oregon Research institute by Eric Stace. The experience revealed that people who eat sugar regularly showed a very diminished response.
They didn’t feel pleasured after consuming that food which ends up reducing the activity of the reward circuit, weakening its responsiveness. Another effect, the more we eat a diet rich in sugar the more the reward circuitry fires up, desiring more even when we’re not hungry. This obviously drives obesity and weight gaining.
What we choose to eat every day should be a first concern from now on because what happens in our minds differs based on what we eat. Dr Carlos Ribeiro, had demonstrated, by research on fly’s, that the choices of food for flies are coupled firstly with deficiencies. The flies are craving for vitamins they lack. Additionally, they are influenced by the bacteria in their guts. This unexpected discovery raises an important question: do human gut bacteria play a role in their food decision?
Microbes Indeed influences certain behaviors in animals as well. That’s been proven by Dr. John Cryan, at University college cork. “The main factor that influences the composition of microbes in the food we eat, diet, and the diversity of the diet from the moment we born until we die,” said Dr. Cryan. The microbes are impacted by food, which has an impact on our brains. Hence, our well- being, in a way or another, depends on our microbiome. A suitable diet for our bacteria, good food which will pamper our brain and maintain our mental health is highly recommended.
The Best diet is the one serving our minds. For instance, the Mediterranean diet that’s based on vegetables, fish, fruits, a diverse range of food, and olive oil. A study that occurred in Australia showed that people with major depression have been improved when receiving dietary support and moved towards the Mediterranean diet. The exact recipe for our Brain health is still unknown, but a balanced, diverse diet without processed food and sugar seems so far to be the best recipe for maintaining our mental faculties.
The wisdom of our grandmothers seems immortal “You are what you eat. Eat well.” That’s resuming our eating habits. We cannot stop crime by eating good food. We cannot end all emotional trauma, but we can bet on healthy eating. We must be careful in our food decisions and our children well- being. It’s our duty to stop that monster from disturbing our Life.