So you’re eating more junk food, which is, in turn, damaging your brain. This means that your brain can be reduced in terms of its neuroplasticity, which is how these neurons are firing together and wiring together to form your memories.
But also, these neurons are born in your brain throughout life, particularly in the hippocampus. This is called neurogenesis, and it occurs throughout your life. These new neurons are particularly plastic. They form memories readily, and they’re really important.
We know that people who consume high-fat diets — from research with rodents — have got lower amounts of neurogenesis. But people with mental health disorders, such as depression, also have lower levels of neurogenesis, which again brings about another idea of a vicious cycle.
We know that these foods are really tasty. They release dopamine; dopamine makes us feel good. So if we comfort-eat these foods, we’re actually then diminishing our neurogenesis, which is actually making us sadder in the long run. So that’s kind of a depressing point. I’m really sorry.
But it’s really important for us to be mindful of what we’re putting into our bodies and how it’s affecting both our body and our brains. And for young people, it’s especially important because this is such a critical period in your life for learning about the world and learning new things and concepts.
So when you’re stressed out, you can think, “Oh, I just want to comfort-eat and just consume pizza and doughnuts and then revise for my exam tomorrow morning.”
But this isn’t going to be ideal for your brain to remember all these facts. But research provides us with these methods that the brain is being affected by in terms of these diets.
And so it provides us with ways that we can counteract these effects. I’m sorry, but you can eat healthy foods. I mean, fruit and veg are really good for you. They contain antioxidants. And these fight inflammation and neuroinflammation.
If you eat avocados and oily fish, these contain a lot of omega-3s, and these are able to boost neurogenesis. And by being active in your lifestyle, getting out and running around, it doesn’t just help you lose weight by burning off excess calories, but it also boosts neuroplasticity mechanisms in the brain.
So, I’m not going to tell you to never eat junk food ever again. We all do it. But we need to treat these foods in the same way that our brain treats these foods — as a reward, as opposed to the major part of our diets.
Download This Transcript as PDF here: This Is Your Brain On Sugar_ Amy Reichelt (Transcript)
Resources for Further Reading: