Diets Rich in Unhealthy Fats & Sugar Hurt the Brain’s Ability to Adapt
We’ve long known that regularly consuming less-than-healthy foods negatively impacts mood and energy, but new research suggests the effects of fat and sugar on our brains may be even more serious.
A recent study led by top researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute found that compared to mice fed a normal diet, mice fed a either high-fat or high-sugar diet experienced changes in their gut bacteria makeup that translated to compromised cognitive function. No surprise there!
Sugar’s Serious Effects on Memory
After just four weeks on the two unhealthy diets, the mice began to perform poorly on various mental and physical tests.
Specifically, the mice lost cognitive flexibility, the ability to adapt to and cope with situational or environmental changes. In yet another blow to sweet treats, the study determined that the high-sugar diet yielded the most serious effects. In addition to harming adaptability, high sugar consumption caused damage to both short and long-term memory centers in the brain.
How does it work? Bacteria are thought to actually release compounds that act like neurotransmitters, thereby influencing everything from behavior and cravings to memory and motor function. When bad bacteria are running the show, the result is nasty junk food cravings, low energy, negative moods, and more.
On paper, it’s a simple fix: eliminate sugar and unhealthy fat sources from your diet. But in reality, it’s harder to avoid the two altogether (it is fresh fruit season after all!).
Resveratrol’s Amazing Fat-Altering Ability
What you eat alongside sugar and unhealthy fats can help reduce the negative effects of hiccups in your diet. One nutrient in particular has been found to play an amazing role in proper glucose metabolism and fat storage: resveratrol.
Hailed as a master antioxidant and anti-aging nutrient, resveratrol is a plant polyphenol found in the skin of grapes, as well as in peanuts and berries.
New research out of Washington State University found that resveratrol has the unique ability to convert excess white fat into brown fat, a more active, energy-burning form associated with reduced obesity risk.
Researchers found that supplementing the high-fat diets of mice with resveratrol reduced weight gain by an impressive 40% as a result of resveratrol’s fat-converting ability.
Resveratrol was found to stimulate the expression of AMPK, an enzyme involved in energy metabolism that helps spark the fat transformation from white to brown.
White Fat vs. Brown Fat
So what’s the difference between these two types of fat and why is brown more desirable? Here are a few key things to note:
- Brown fat is composed of several small lipids and iron-containing mitochondria, while white fat is composed of a single large lipid and has less mitochondria. Mitochondria are responsible for burning calories for energy, so you can see why having more of them would help reduce excess fat storage.
- Brown fat generates heat by burning calories, while white fat stores energy in the body. While we need both actions, too much energy storage means a flabby tummy!
- Brown fat is derived from muscle tissue, while white fat is derived from connective tissue and acts as a cushion, insulating our organs. Although brown fat declines as you age, adults with higher concentrations of brown fat are generally slimmer and have healthy blood sugar levels.
- Brown fat is found in the neck and upper back, while white fat accumulates in the “problem areas” we’re all too familiar with, like the stomach, thighs, butt, and upper arms.
- Brown fat is generated during exercise and sleep, while white fat is generated as a result of consuming too many calories.
- While you want as much brown fat as possible, it’s important to limit white fat prevalence to 15-25% for men, and 15-30% for women. That means keeping waist circumference under 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men. The location of fat in the body really matters!
There you have it: While some white fat is essential for survival, focus on maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy eating and sleep patterns to achieve optimal levels of calorie-busting brown fat!