High fat, high sugar… high five?!

Study Title
Long term Westernized diet leads to region-specific changes in brain signalling mechanisms.
Study Authors
Stine Normann Hansen, David Højland Ipsen, Anne Marie Schou-Pedersen, Jens Lykkesfeldt, Pernille Tveden-Nyborg
Study Model Animal - Guinea Pig
Abstract Link https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29655945


It’s time to travel to Denmark, not physically maybe, but definitely on paper, as we discuss a study done by Stine Normann Hansen et al titled:

“Long term Westernized diet leads to region-specific changes in brain signalling mechanisms”

This study investigated the impact of a high fat, high sugar (HFHS) diet on brain signalling in a guinea pig model, which shares a lot of similarities with humans. Keep in mind, we are talking about non-obese animals within healthy body weight limit.

The high-fat diet alone is capable of inducing dyslipidemia, which is an abnormal number of lipids (fats) in the blood. The combination of high fat and high sugar reduced BDNF levels in the brain of test animals and as we know this is bad news, as we want to increase BDNF levels to increase the number of neurons and neuroplasticity.

The high fat, high sugar diet is associated with higher levels of oxidative stress and lower levels of antioxidants as measured by lower levels of vitamin C in Stine’s study. In turn, low levels of antioxidants in the brain are associated with dementia and memory problems.

To look at it in a linear way we could say that: HFHS diet ->  dyslipidemia -> lower BDNF / more oxidative stress -> cognitive problems (?).

Also, we talk about fat and sugar, what about protein? Would it mean that high protein diet (e.g. keto diet) would increase BDNF levels? Or at least not decrease them substantially? It kind of makes sense from the evolutionary point of view.

Imagine: it’s cold, winter time. There’s no fruit or veg available, but you need to survive (or die). You choose to survive, so…. firstly you use up your stored glycogen, you look for food… no luck… then you start using your fat for energy, but the brain doesn’t use fat for energy, it needs ketones which are synthesised in the liver… so you switch your brain from glucose to ketones… you keep on looking for food… manage to get some animal and it’s protein plus fat, which keeps you in ketosis, producing ketone bodies to keep you going until glucose becomes available again.

It seems like our brains really need to step up and problem solve more efficiently when food is scarce and/or carbohydrates are not easily available. That problem doesn’t happen for most people anymore as food is quite easy to get and even if you don’t get much food on a regular basis most likely it will be in the form of carbohydrates: bread or rice depending on your region.

What’s your diet like? High sugar? High fat? High protein?

Dr Bart Alright


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