Every one of us knows that a good diet is essential for long term health. Yet so many of us believe that we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want, without consequence. Or perhaps, like most smokers, we believe consequences are for the ‘others’ and that we will be fine. We know that junk food leads directly to obesity and, potentially, diabetes, but now research has show that it also damages your brain!

Researchers at Deakin University published their findings last week in the BioMed Central Journal.  The studies, conducted on 250 ‘over 60’s’ men and women, have shown a direct correlation between the size of the hippocampus and nutrition.

Poor nutrition can damage your hippocampus
Poor nutrition can damage your hippocampus

“In this cohort study of community-based older adults, lower intakes of nutrient-dense foods and higher intakes of unhealthy foods were each independently associated with smaller left hippocampal volumes.”

The hippocampus can be compared to a filing cabinet. It’s used to retrieve information and memories that help us function in society. Animal studies had found similar results but, as the researchers stated:

“To our knowledge, this is the first human study to demonstrate associations between diet and hippocampal volume concordant with data previously observed in animal studies. These findings suggest the potential for dietary interventions to promote hippocampal health, decrease age-related atrophy, and prevent negative health outcomes associated with hippocampal atrophy.”

And as further evidence of the effect of poor dietary habits on mental health, the researchers also concluded:

“(The findings) also support the extensive data from human observational and intervention studies showing that unhealthy dietary patterns are associated with increased prevalence or risk, and healthy dietary patterns with reduced risk, of depression and reinforce the imperative to improve dietary intakes at the population level and in clinical settings for better mental health outcomes.”

Professor Felice Jacka, stated in a radio interview that the findings were further proof that a bad diet causes not only physical but also mental problems.

“The quality of people’s diets is related to their risk for depression in particular,” she said. “In a way food is like petrol for our body and if you put into your car petrol that is dirty or watered down you’re really not going to get the best outcome from your car. In the same way, the food that we put in our mouths needs to be of the best quality.”

The challenge we all face is that physical and mental debilitation usually happens very slowly. Like aging, we don’t notice the change when we look in the mirror each day.  Eating well or eating badly is a choice. That choice becomes a habit and like all habits, can be changed in just 21 days.

What you eat every day is going to determine how you look, feel and act tomorrow! Given the choice between vigour and mental vitality on the one hand and feebleness and mental frailty on the other, which will you choose?

Here’s a link to the interview with Professor Jacka…

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