Study Links High-Fat Diet with Cognitive Issues and Worsened Mental Health

What we eat can have big impacts on our health. A healthy diet can lower our risk of a variety of ailments, lead to a longer lifespan, and strengthen our immune systems. On the other hand, though, a less than healthy diet can open us up to a variety of conditions. A new study out of Australia finds that a poor diet can lead not only to weight gain and diabetes, but also mental and cognitive health problems.


Researchers from the University of South Australia examined the impacts of a long-term high-fat diet on mice, finding a broad range of impacts. According to their paper published in the journal Metabolic Brain Disease, the mice on such diets experienced weight gain and developed diabetes, and they also demonstrated worsening cognitive abilities, anxiety, and depression.

Larisa Bobrovskaya, co-lead researcher and associate professor at the University of South Australia, says, “Obesity and diabetes impair the central nervous system, exacerbating psychiatric disorders and cognitive decline. We demonstrated this in our study with mice.”

In their study, the team had mice, that were 8-weeks-old at the start of the study, adhere to a high-fat diet or a standard diet for 30 weeks. Throughout this stretch, their body weight, glucose levels, insulin tolerance, and cognitive function were measured. Those in the high-fat group were found to have gained weight, developed insulin resistance, and begun acting differently than those on the standard diet.


The team notes that mice with impaired cognitive function were more likely to gain weight due to brain changes that impacted metabolism. Additionally, mice with genetically modified Alzheimer’s showed a marked worsening of their condition while they ate a high-fat diet.

Bobrovskaya says prior research has demonstrated an increased risk of depression in those living with obesity. The previous research also found a reciprocal link between the two.

She says, “Our findings underline the importance of addressing the global obesity epidemic. A combination of obesity, age and diabetes is very likely to lead to a decline in cognitive abilities, Alzheimer’s disease and other mental health disorders.”


So which foods are good for brain health? Those include leafy green vegetables, berries, walnuts, and fish with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential. The fats that are apt to negatively impact brain health in large amounts are saturated and partially hydrogenated fats.

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