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High-Fat Diets Impair Memory

August 14th 2009

High-fat diets temporarily reduce short-term memory functions, according to a new study.
By Raphael Gassiolle

High-fat diets temporarily reduce short-term memory functions, according to a new study performed on rats.

Although high-fat diets are known to have long-term affects on physical and mental health, this study by British researchers is the first to highlight the almost immediate risks of diets rich in fatty foods.

Scientists at the British Heart Foundation studied 32 rats that were initially fed low-fat food for two months and trained to run through a maze. Then half the rats switched to eating a high-fat diet in which 55 percent of the calories came from fat. After only a few days, the rats eating a high-fat diet started making mistakes on the maze, suggesting a reduction in cognitive ability. In the study, published in the FASEB journal, showed that  the same rats also displayed increased signs of physical fatigue compared to the low-fat eating rats.

“We found that rats, when switched to a high-fat diet from their standard low-fat feed, showed a surprisingly quick reduction in their physical performance,” said Dr. Andrew Murray, lead researcher of the study, according to ScienceDaily. “After just nine days, they were only able to run 50 per cent as far on a treadmill as those that remained on the low-fat feed.”

The high-fat eating rats also made increasingly more mistakes on the maze as the study continued, whereas the rats that remained on the low-fat diet displayed a high level of performance on the maze and treadmill.

“It's nothing short of a high-fat hangover,” said Dr. Gerald Weissmann editor of FASEB, according to the New York Daily News. “A long weekend spent eating hotdogs, French fries, and pizza in Orlando might be a great treat for our taste buds, but they might send our muscles and brains out to lunch.”