Memory loss linked to starch and sugar-laden diets

A big worry for Pacific islanders

Forget weight gain—long-term spatial memory loss has now been linked to starch and sugar-laden diets as a warning to Pacific islanders over their lifestyle of high fat traditional foods. A gradual shift from age-old Pacific islands diets relying heavily on backyard-grown foods to imported sugar and refined carbohydrates-rich foods since the 1980s, has seen the region suffer severely with high world-beating obesity rates and incurrence of diabetes. A recent New Zealand study also established that a key cause to the problem is when imported refined and processed carbohydrates are added to the diet of islanders.

Changes in brain in just six days: A diet stacked with saturated fat and sugar could instigate immediate effect on the brain’s cognitive ability and cause memory loss, noted Margaret Morris, head of pharmacology at the University of the New South Wales in Sydney. The far-reaching research revealed that exposure to junk foods over just six days could reduce spatial recognition—or the ability to notice when an object has been moved to a new location. “We know obesity causes inflammation in the body, but we didn’t realise until recently that it causes changes in the brain,” said Morris. She asserted that the speed with which the deterioration occurred was alarming, with a spatial memory loss appearing long before any weight gain. “After consuming a high sugar and fat diet for one week, we found that the hippocampus, the brain structure which is critical for learning and memory, had increased inflammation,” Morris noted. In humans, spatial memory is essential in navigation and recalling where everyday use items like car keys and mobile phones are located.

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