News ID: 193796
Published: 1029 GMT May 30, 2017

High-fat diets literally re-wire children's brains

High-fat diets literally re-wire children's brains

Scientists have shown how a high-fat diet can literally alter the brain of a child.

Studying rats, researchers in France found that those who were raised on a diet high in processed foods experienced a far greater rush of pleasure from junk food as adults,  wrote.

Consequently these rats — compared to healthy ones —  grew up to crave fatty cuisine when they were feeling low, almost akin to a drug user getting a hit.

The researchers said it all boils down to the way fatty foods reinforce pathways in our brain's pleasure center by triggering an intense rush of dopamine with each bite.

And they said they had no doubt their findings applied to humans

The study, published in the journal eNeuro, focused on the way high fat diets fuel reward-seeking behavior.

To do so, Dr. Guillaume Ferreira from the Université de Bordeaux in France led a team looking at dopamine in the brains of male rats.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in sensitization — when repeated rewards (either drugs, food or other stimulants) cause an increase in response.

In the study, Dr. Ferreira fed a high-fat diet to a group of rats for three months, from weaning to adulthood.

They then gave each rat two injections of amphetamine, a psychostimulant which triggers the dopamine system.

The authors found that rats who were raised on a high fat diet exhibited increased happy brain activity in response to a second injection of amphetamine.

Looking closely at their brains, they saw a spike in activity among dopamine cells and a stronger dopamine release, making them happier.

It is hardly the first study to draw such a conclusion.

In fact, the research joins a burgeoning swell of research analyzing junk food's impact on children amid a global obesity crisis and limited access to fresh food among lower-income communities.

In 2015, a high-profile study by the University of Illinois found fatty foods can reduce the speed at which a child's brain works.

It found that children who ate a diet higher in saturated fats and cholesterol had slower reaction times and a poorer working memory.

Children who ate the fatty diet performed worse when they were given a task-switching game to complete, the researchers said.

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