Gut bacteria linked to cognitive function

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woman-with-brain-fog(NaturalHealth365) Everyone has experienced memory lag from time to time, but many people report feeling ‘brain fog’ on a near chronic basis. The problem used to be a complaint commonly associated with age or lifestyle factors like stress or sleep deprivation. However, a study from UCLA found that even young people are affected by poor memory, with approximately 1 in 7 experiencing memory problems.

While the 2013 study found that an increasing number of adults of all ages are experiencing brain fog, it could only speculate as to why. Researchers were able to find a link between healthy eating and better perceived memory skills, but it’s not until recently that science may have discovered a more specific explanation: a diet high in fat and sugar.

OSU researchers see a link between poor dietary choices and brain fog

It is no secret that the typical diet in America is laden with fat and sugar – both primary components in the obesity epidemic. But researchers at Oregon State University have found another consequence of this standard American fare – changes in gut bacteria that impact cognitive function.

There are approximately 100 trillion gut bacteria that make up the body’s microbiome. Researchers are finding increasing evidence that the gut bacteria can ‘communicate’ with the brain by releasing compounds that act as neurotransmitters.

However, variations in the microbiome can occur when a person consumes too much fat and sugar. Though it is unclear exactly how the changes in gut bacteria change the brain, the data is clear that people who eat the traditional ‘Western diet’ high in fats and sugars may be more likely to experience cognitive impairment.

Gut bacteria imbalances are associated with poor cognitive flexibility

The brain is a powerful organ and the central command center of the body. It performs many functions and is responsible for adapting and acclimating to changes as they occur. A person’s cognitive flexibility is what provides him the ability to find new solutions when faced with obstacles or challenges that are out of the ordinary. When cognitive flexibility is impaired, any unexpected problem can weaken a person’s ability to adapt.

In the OSU study, groups of mice who were given a diet high in fat and sugar not only showed changes in their gut bacteria, but also showed noticeable impairment in cognitive flexibility. Compared to the control group, which was given a normal, balanced diet, the experimental group showed difficulty with otherwise simple tasks, such as finding a new escape route from their cages after the normal escape route was blocked. The results support theories long-held by researchers that changes in gut bacteria are directly linked to brain fog and cognitive function.

Good science offers an important message for intelligent, open-minded people

As biomedical scientist and lead researcher, Dr. Kathy Masgnusson, said, “We’ve known for a while that too much fat and sugar are not good for you…” Fat and sugar-filled foods affect more than just your body – they affect the mind. This is just one more reason to reject processed foods in favor of a more natural, plant-based diet.


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  • A. Scientist

    This study did not differentiate between the effects of fat and sugar; nor did it differentiate between various types of fat. Nor was it done in humans. Much recent research has disproven that fat is unhealthy. Further, several studies have shown that fat from healthy animals which were cared for in a humane fashion is actually beneficial to human health. This article, and the study which it references, seems to be propaganda promoting vegetarianism, even at the cost of human health and good scientific principles.

    • pam r

      The study is talking about the fat in the typical American diet. Which
      is loaded in Omega 6 and little Omega 3 which causes tons of
      inflammation. Most Americans are not eating raw organic coconut oil or grass fed animal products
      They are eating things in bags and boxes like chips, crackers and
      cookies loaded high heated vegetable oils which are really bad for
      health. I did not get the feeling that the article promoted being vegetarian – It just reinforced to me
      how important it is to stay away from consuming poor quality fats and any white sugar.

  • Bob

    What kind of fats are they talking about- healthy ones such as coconut oil or unhealthy one?

    • pam r

      The study is talking about the fat in the typical American diet. Which is loaded in Omega 6 and little Omega 3 which causes tons of inflammation. Most Americans are not eating raw organic coconut oil. They are eating things in bags and boxes like chips, crackers and cookies loaded high heated vegetable oils which are really bad for health.