STUDY: Eating a junk food-filled diet during adolescence could lead to long-term memory impairment in adulthood

A University of Southern California (USC) study has found that adolescents who eat a lot of junk food could end up having impaired long-term memory when they grow older.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Brain Behavior and Immunity, was conducted among rats fed a diet full of fat and sugar during adolescence. The study also builds on prior research linking poor diet to Alzheimer’s disease, a condition characterized by reduced levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is crucial for memory, learning, attention and other cognitive functions. (Related: Eating junk food causes DEPRESSION that most people treat with pills rather than nutrition.)

Professor Scott Kanoski and postdoctoral research fellow Anna Hayes from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences monitored acetylcholine levels in rats fed a junk food diet during adolescence to investigate the impact of a high-fat, high-sugar diet on memory. Then, the researchers subjected the rodents to memory tests, including tasks designed to assess episodic memory, or a person’s ability to recall past events and experiences.

The results reveal that rats on the junk food diet displayed long-term memory impairments, struggling to remember objects and their locations compared to a control group. Further analysis indicated disrupted acetylcholine signaling in the brains of rats exposed to the unhealthy diet, suggesting a potential mechanism underlying the memory deficits.

“Acetylcholine signaling is a mechanism to help them encode and remember those events, analogous to ‘episodic memory’ in humans that allows us to remember events from our past,” Hayes explained. “That signal appears to not be happening in the animals that grew up eating the fatty, sugary diet.”

Kanoski underscores the sensitivity of the adolescent brain to environmental influences, thus, it is important to build healthy dietary habits during this critical development period. He warns that the memory impairments observed in the study may have lasting consequences if not addressed during adolescence.

Another study proves the correlation between childhood obesity and compromised cognitive functioning

A recent study from the Radiological Society of North America backed USC’s claims.

The study, led by researcher Simone Kaltenhauser from the Yale School of Medicine, reveals the correlation between childhood obesity and compromised cognitive functioning. Kaltenhauser and her team delved into this issue by analyzing data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, which encompassed a diverse sample of over 11,000 children aged nine to ten across the United States.

Kaltenhauser and her team used the MRI data to analyze brain structure and function of body mass index (BMI) among children. They found that children with higher BMI z-scores, which account for age, sex and height, showed alterations in brain structure and impaired white matter integrity compared to their leaner counterparts. Specifically, obese children displayed thinner cortices – a crucial region for cognitive function – and damaged white matter in the corpus callosum, a structure that facilitates communication between brain hemispheres.

“It is striking that these changes were visible early on during childhood,” Kaltenhauser said in a press release. “We expected the decrease in cortical thickness among the higher weight and BMI z-score children, as this was found previously in smaller subsamples of the ABCD study. However, we were surprised by the extent of white matter impairment.”

These changes, observed even in early childhood, may cause the previously documented links between high BMI in children and decreased academic performance.

Watch this video to learn about how you can support healthy cognitive function naturally with 5-HTP.

This video is from the Health Ranger Store channel on

More related stories:

Obesity Industrial Complex pushes junk food on children so they grow up to become pharmaceutical junkies.

Eating junk food during pregnancy raises newborn’s risk of diabetes, obesity.

Overconsumption of high fructose corn syrup-rich foods causes health problems, addiction.

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