According to a new study published in the journal Neurology, eating fast food is connected with brain shrinkage that can lead to Alzheimer’s. This study, titled “Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging” is one of the first to look at trans fat blood levels and their effects on the brain.
A key ingredient found in most fast food items—the dreaded artery-damaging trans fats—are likely the culprit, says researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, who worked on the study. Trans fats, which can also be labeled “partially hydrogenated oils” are used to extend the shelf-life, consistency and flavor of highly processed foods such as fast food and processed snack foods. They’re known to increase inflammation, which hardens arteries, affects heart function and increases the risk of heart attack. But the new findings also suggest that the brain may also be at risk of damage from regular exposure to trans fats. In addition to the smaller size, the study participants who had high levels of trans fats in their brain also showed poorer memory, attention, language and processing skills than those who did not have trans fats in the brain.
Conversely, people who consumed diets high in vitamins B, C, D and E and rich in omega fatty acids were reported to have larger brains and showed cognitive abilities that correspond with the brain and its healthy blood vessels. While it’s still not fully understood, the researchers found that the vitamins B, C, D and E worked in synergy affecting the brain in a positive way that helped to boost its volume and performance, and the omega fatty acids were connected with better performing executive function, planning abilities, problem solving and multi-tasking than study participants with low levels of omega fatty acids.
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