The Great American Diet Causes Brain Damage

The Great American Diet is coming under scrutiny lately and it’s about time.

The Great American Diet Causes Brain DamageWith the presence of obesogens entering our foods and environments and the number of chemicals and growth hormones and genetically modified foods invading our food system, is it any wonder our health is suffering and we’re getting fatter and fatter each day?

The result of this high-fat, high-calorie, low-nutrition American diet is making it almost impossible for obese people to lose weight.

And here’s why.

After studying the neural behaviour in animals, scientists have found that high-fat diets cause brain injury in the area of the brain that controls body weight.

“The possibility that brain injury may be a consequence of the overconsumption of a typical American diet offers a new explanation for why sustained weight loss is so difficult for most obese individuals to achieve,” said presenting author Joshua Thaler, MD, PhD, a faculty member with the Diabetes and Obesity Center of Excellence at the University of Washington in Seattle.

This study was conducted on rats over a period of one day to eight months to measure the short-term and long-term effects of a typical high-fat American diet. The brains of the rats were scanned for changes and reactions to this diet and the results are nothing less than terrifying.

After just three days of eating a high-fat, typical American diet, these rats ate double their regular diet, double the number of calories. The hypothalamus in the brain reacted to this diet by swelling and showing signs of inflammation. This is the part of the brain that controls the appetite and signals the body when to stop eating. There was also an greater presence of support cells called glia and scavenger cells called microglia. This effect subsided after a couple of days, but resurfaced again a month later.

“Gliosis is thought to be the brain equivalent of wound healing and is typically seen in conditions of neuronal injury, such as stroke and multiple sclerosis,” Thaler said. “We speculate that the early gliosis that we saw may be a protective response that fails over time.”

There was further brain damage to the neurons that control critical weight regulation called pro-opiomelanocortin neurons. After the full eight-month term of the study, the rats’ brains showed a reduction in the number of critical weight-regulating neurons and this contributed to the rats’ overall weight gain.

“If new medicines can be designed that limit neuron injury during overeating, they may be effective in combating the obesity epidemic,” Thaler said.


The Endocrine Society. “Eating a high-fat diet may rapidly injure brain cells that control body weight.” ScienceDaily, 9 Jun. 2011. Web. 14 Jun. 2011.


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