Highly processed foods may harm memory in ageing brain: Study

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Study in animals suggests omega-3 may reduce effects

Researchers from Ohio State University Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research in the US have revealed that four weeks on a diet of highly processed food leads to a strong inflammatory response in the brains of ageing rats, accompanied by behavioral signs of memory loss.

Researchers also found that supplementing the processed diet with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) prevented memory problems and reduced the inflammatory effects almost entirely in older rats.

Neuroinflammation and cognitive problems were not detected in young adult rats that ate the processed diet.

The study diet mimicked ready-to-eat human foods that are often packaged for long shelf lives, such as potato chips and other snacks, frozen entrees like pasta dishes and pizzas, and deli meats containing preservatives.

“These findings indicate that consumption of a processed diet can produce significant and abrupt memory deficits — and in the aging population, rapid memory decline has a greater likelihood of progressing into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. By being aware of this, maybe we can limit processed foods in our diets and increase consumption of foods that are rich in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA to either prevent or slow that progression”, said the researchers.

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